In this series of articles we are going to share his insights with you, if you are keen for more, there is an ever growing collection on my Facebook profile: come and make friends. www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP
This is article 1 out of a series of 10! The other articles will be released in the following editions of the Parenta magazine.
When my first son went to nursery he went to two different settings, one looked like someone’s disorganised living room, staffed by Grandmas who loved and adored the children in their care. The other was top ranked, clinically clean, displays updated weekly, staff were always avidly writing notes and observations when you went in.
Upon picking him up from the pristine nursery one day, the staff member doing the hand over with me suddenly realised that he did not attend on Fridays (he only did a day, a week at the fancy place) and rushed to get his picture for me. He’d worked so hard on it she told me. I watched as she took it down from the beautifully presented display. It was a cotton wool sheep, with stuck on black card legs and hand drawn eyes. It looked exactly like all the other cotton wool sheep on that display. Exactly.
I took it, and she looked a little concerned that I didn’t instantly gush over his work. Holding it, felt….eerie…the thought in my head was “What did you do to my son to make him do EXACTLY the same as everyone else”. I want my son to learn, to grow, to be able to express himself. That’s what I expect from a nursery. I don’t want him enrolled in a tiny little factory mass producing cute items from Pinterest.
Egg and I recreated the experience (just once, and just briefly). Here’s his wisdom:
My hands cannot perform the skills needed to make these pictures. So my hands were moved for me. The picture was made hand over hand.
I did not like it.
I learned the skills I’ve worked so hard to earn are not good enough.
I learned the hands “helping” me are better than my hands.
Instead of being excited by the skills, my hands have I learnt to be disappointed that my hands cannot do more.
This happened because someone wanted me to produce something that looked a certain way. They valued that product more than my self-esteem and well-being.
“My mummy only did this once and only to show you. If she did this to me every day, I would lose interest in my own hands. I would stop thinking of them as things I use and recognise them as other people’s tools. I would become passive, I would feel sad. Diminished.”
(These words first appeared on Jo’s Facebook profile you are welcome to send her a friend request to watch out for more insight www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP)
I work with people who have profound and multiple learning disabilities, often their ability to move their own hands is limited, their ability to grip and hold items can be unreliable. There can occasionally be justification for very sensitive manipulation of their hands, but more often than not ,hand over hand work just happens to them. Kind people unintentionally do harm by “helping” them in this way. Hand over hand can be useful to guide a movement for a skill that can be swiftly learned, or that needs to be felt to be understood, the way you might show someone how to shoot pool. If you are supporting people with limited movement, try using hand under hand, to guide their hand to something you are inviting them to explore. Think of your own hand as like a little moving platform for their hand to ride upon, bring their hand to the item and allow it to slide off your hand and onto the item for exploration. Do not grab their hand and do it for them. That takes them out of the equation, they are not doing anything, you are, and you’re using their body as a tool for doing it.
Egg starts nursery in a few weeks. (A different nursery). I am hoping to be bringing home a collection of paintings and sculptures that are difficult to understand and look nothing like any of the other children’s!
Joanna provides online and in person training relating to sensory engagement and sensory differences, look up www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/online-college for more information. To view a list of her books visit www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/books Follow Jo on social media to pick up new sensory insights, you’ll find her at:
I do not know how he came to acquire the nick-name ‘Egg’ but ever since he came along, that’s what my youngest son has been called. I run The Sensory Projects www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk (which should now really be called The Sensory Projects and Sons!) My work focuses on people with profound disabilities and sensory differences, but my son’s advice will apply to your work too.
Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects.
Consistently rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, Joanna has taught in mainstream and special-school settings, connecting with pupils of all ages and abilities. To inform her work, Joanna draws on her own experience from her private and professional life as well as taking in all the information she can from the research archives. Joanna’s private life includes family members with disabilities and neurodivergent conditions and time spent as a registered foster carer for children with profound disabilities.
Joanna has published four practitioner books: “Multiple Multisensory Rooms: Myth Busting the Magic”, “Sensory Stories for Children and Teens”, “Sensory-Being for Sensory Beings” and “Sharing Sensory Stories and Conversations with People with Dementia”. and two inclusive sensory story children’s books: “Voyage to Arghan” and “Ernest and I”. There is new book coming out soon called ‘”The Subtle Spectrum” and her son has recently become the UK’s youngest published author with his book, “My Mummy is Autistic”.