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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hands are the enemy

A bit extreme perhaps. Maybe we should rephrase to something a bit more positive ‘hands are not are friends.’ Not really an improvement. Tell you what, I explain the problem and you come up with a new title? Up for a challenge?

So, what is so bad about hands? First things first. It’s not exactly the hands, more like the receptors on the hands, especially the finger tips and especially especially the normally favoured finger tips, namely the index finger. [translation = pointer] Either he has 100 receptors in the spot where you and I have just a few, or alternatively, he has the same number or receptors but they are wrongly calibrated. Thus, where we have enough nerve endings to determine whether a surface is rough or smooth, he doesn’t want to put his receptors to the test, because he already knows that one feels like broken glass. So if you, as the parent, say ‘come along Fred, run your hand along this barbed wire fence,’ you, Fred, not unreasonably, run a mile and report your mother to the Child Protection league on route.

Alternatively, mother passes you your pyjamas, right out of the tumble drier, ‘ come along Fred, pop them on whilst they’re still warm.’ Warm? Warm! What are you trying to do to me? Book me a spot in the Burns Unit and make it pronto! This woman is determined to finish me off.

So it’s a question of degree. Sometimes I wonder why he has hands at all since they are patently of so little use to him. My hands are a pretty ordinary, if large, pair. On the whole they obey me. Most of the time I don’t even have to think about actively using them, they just do my bidding. If, like my son, I would prefer not to use my hands, life would be a lot trickier to navigate. He appears disenchanted with his hands and finds many ways to avoid using them. For instance, unless you have slip on shoes, you will probably need to use your hands to assist your feet. If you merely prod your velcroed closed shoes with your foot, it’s likely that you’re not going to get anywhere far, or at least not with your shoes on.

Try this experiment. You will need a banana, a hair brush and a receptacle of drinking water.

Have you ever tried to eat without using your hands? No, not without cutlery [translation = flatware] just without your hands at all? Believe me, I’ve tried it and it’s not easy. Even if your food is something simple, like a banana [a peeled

one] it’s really difficult to eat it off the table top without those little pinkies jumping in to help. It’s so instinctive that it’s difficult to suppress.
O.k, now throw the banana away, or nudge it with your forehead, make sure that you are sitting on your hands, and put the hair brush in it’s place. Line up your head and start brushing your locks. Any luck?

Easier still – take a bottle, glass or cup of water to the table and try to drink it. No straws, that’s cheating. My bet is that you’ll end up trying to drink like a cat, sort of lap it up? Otherwise you’ll end up tipping it over into your lap. Not very efficient and you’re not likely to get much more than a couple of inches down.

What is the point of this? Good question. The point, in part, is that the parent needs to identify ‘deficiencies’ in the child. Ignore the negative connotations for the moment. Once this is done, the parent can devise ways of making ‘hand use’ less aversive. If you use your hands often, whilst it may never become ‘instinctual’ as we would generally mean, at least we can move towards being friends with our hands, because without them, life can be unnecessarily difficult. It’s not a cure but it probably is ‘therapy.’ Whilst ‘therapy’ and ‘cure’ are often considered ‘bad’ words with respect to autism, addressing issues that your child has difficulty with would not seem, to my biased mind, entirely fruitless.


Rachel said...

"addressing issues that your child has difficulty with would not seem, to my biased mind, entirely fruitless."

Very, very true. I'd be considerably more impaired if I hadn't had physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy as a child.

EA said...

Oh boy. I apologize in advance for the psychobabble and the rant...
(stepping up onto soap box)
In this post, you seem to have hit upon an issue with which I am struggling, and over which I have strong feelings. I see it in the following ways: 1) Do I, as the teacher/therapist/parent work with my student/client/child to fit in the world the way the world says s/he should fit in? 2) Do I work to make the world fit the child? or 3)Do I work to help the child use his/her innate strengths to find creative solutions for getting along in the world? (Okay, there are probably lots of other ways to see this too. All I've got are these three at this point.)

I am a strong advocate of the last one...in my world, its about helping clients to understand who they are and how they function, and then helping them figure out how they can use that understanding (information?) to find their way in the world as well (comfortably?, happily?) as they possibly can.

So, yes, it seems to me too that trying to find creative ways to make friends with enemy-like hands is a sound strategy.
(stepping down off of soap-box)
Thanks for listening.

Lisa/Jedi said...

I empathise with the hand plans... Brendan has an aversion to his left hand, due (we believe) to some sensory issues combined with the OCD, which makes him alternate between simply not using it & actively melting down because it exists & is attached to his body (he would prefer it weren't). Sigh. His OT has been working with him, but it's more difficult with the OCD as a factor. Other than encouraging & manipulating him into situations where he has to use it, I'm just hoping he grows out this particular aversion...

kristina said...

I've long suspected Charlie to be ambidextrous as he's often eaten with his left hand or done something involving a bit of dexterity, and he is quite trained to use the right one. Words like "clumsy" and "awkward" don't quite describe how Charlie uses his hands----his fingers are very long and tapered.

Adaption is the key!

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