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    WPSBC Golden Nuggets: Hand Splints

    WPSBC educators, therapists, and specialists offer answers to frequently asked questions. 

    Frequently Asked Question: Why do some students wear hand splints?

    Submitted by: Deborah Fenton, OT

    Answer:  Wearing hand splints can help students function and learn better both at school and at home.  Hand and elbow splints are worn for a variety of reasons depending on the needs of the student

    Splints can help students be able to move and participate more in a variety of educational and functional activities. 

    • Splints can be useful for students who have tight muscles, or for those who are hypermobile. 
      • A wrist-thumb splint can help students be able to grasp objects. 
      • For students who have tight muscles a wrist-thumb splint can position their thumb away from their palm.
      • For students who are hyper mobile the same type of  splint can provide extra stability for their wrist, hand and thumb so that they can maintain their hand position while grasping.

    Some splints help to prevent contractures.

    • Resting hand splints that position the wrist, fingers and thumb in a more neutral position are a good example of one of these types of splints. 
    •  An elbow splint that helps a student’s arm be extended instead of flexed is another good example. 

    Other splints help students to decrease behaviors such as hand mouthing.

    • There are many ways to address the issue of hand mouthing and splinting is just one method. 
    • While effective for some children the use of splints is not the best method for all students.
    • Splints used for this purpose need to be discussed with parents, other members of the educational team, and at WPSBC approved by the Human Rights Committee.

    Splints can be:

    1. Custom made from low temperature, moldable plastics, most often by the student's Occupational Therapist (OT).
    2. For students who need a more durable material, splints can be custom made from high temperature plastic.  At WPSBC, this is typically done by an orthotist along with the student's OT.
    3. There are many commercially available splints that are made from materials such as neoprene. Some of these splints have moldable plastic sewn inside of them and can be molded to make the splint more customized to meet individual needs.  
    4. There are options with some splints that allow the splint to be adjusted as the student can tolerate more of a stretch.  

     After the splint is fabricated or ordered:

    1.  It will be fitted to the student and building wearing tolerance begins. 
    2. Students are checked for any marks that do not go away within 20 minutes of removing the splint.
    3. The wearing schedules vary between students based on many factors that can include:
      • Student tolerance for splint wear
      • The need to balance the positioning the splint provides, with the need for sensory experiences such as touching objects
      • The amount of active movement
      • The need to balance active movement with the positioning that the splint provides
      • How much stability is provided by the splint when the student is using their hands to participate in activities
    4. Some students need time to become used to wearing their splints. Once splint wear becomes part of a daily routine, many students often don't seem to mind splint wear. 
    5. It is important to follow the established wearing schedules so that students can get the full benefit of the splint. 

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