‘Hop On!’ It’s FUN!!!
Can you picture a daddy saying to his child, as they romp on the floor, “Hop on!” Most likely, the little one will excitedly hop onto daddy’s back for a ride! Laughter generally ensues and the child bounces up and down with glee!
Does the dad say, ‘this is a wonderful way for you to learn to balance and use your hands and fingers to hold on tight! And, I am so glad that you trust me enough to ‘hop on’?
No, of course not! This all comes so naturally between a loving parent and child!
Our little ones, with various disabilities, are unwilling or unable to reach out and enjoy their environment. They have had folks unwittingly take their hands and direct them to places they did not like!
In addition, their various sensory deficits reduce understanding of their environment to the extent that the child is not motivated to explore with their hands.
They need extra encouragement to reach into the big unknown world, learning that it is a wonderful adventure of knew things!
Children, who have visual or visual & auditory handicapping conditions, tend to become uncomfortable when others touch their hands, especially if they startle by being touched before the adult has greeted them.
Developing trust is easier said than done when the child has sensory defensiveness. It takes time, gentleness and patience to gain trust to help the child enjoy activities. Instead, they feel overwhelmed due to loss of control when be made to co-experience new, scary activities.
If we want the child to feel safe and excited about doing something with us, a good plan is to softly introduce ourselves, then come in contact with the child’s arm or leg and join our bodies by common touch! When we want the child to feel something or manually manipulate something new, by saying ‘hop on!’ and linking our fingers with theirs with an under the hand approach, cooperation and a wonderful co-exploring trust can begin. Start with the things the child likes or is curious about, then we become fun friends!
In a recent classroom circle time, we used this method with a little girl with CVI (Cerebral Visual Impairment) and autism who is tactilely defensive. The children were singing and clapping and this little student was just listening intently. She knew her vision therapist was sitting beside and behind her and was not startled when the therapist introduced herself and slid her hand down the underside of the little girl’s arm, beginning above her elbow down to her hand. When she slid under the little girls hand, she softly said, ’hop on’. The little girl, having developed trust with this therapist, rode the back of the VI’s hand as the therapist clapped her hands together. After the little one accepted ‘the ride’, she began to initiate the movement of the VI’s hand in the clap. Eventually, the therapist was able to withdraw one ‘hop on’ hand and the little girl continued to clap, with one of her little hands, the adult’s other hand, varying the intensity of her ‘hit’! When she pulled her hands away from the therapist’s, she clapped her own hands together once or twice!!
They were all having fun AND look at what she was learning!!! In this activity, the child was able to access the experience of using her hands in relation to one another at mid-line, including direction of movement, amount of force, speed or tempo, and the spatial distance between her hands. This was fun for the child, the therapist, as well as being active participants in the class activity!
A pictorial of the ‘Hop On’ approach:
#1 Approach the child by name and touch the child’s back or arm softly. To co- experience an activity, the adult is best behind or beside the child.
#2 The adult slides her hand under the child’s arm and under the child’s fingers.
#3 Link the adult fingers between the child’s fingers, or use the adult thumb to anchor the child’s hand on top, if there is a little wandering of the child’s hands. DO NOT hold the child’s hand in a way that it cannot break free.
#4 The fingertips of the child should touch the materials that are being explored or manipulated, while the adult guides the inter-play.
#5 As the child’s arm rides the adults, the kinesthetic feedback helps the child gather information from the adults motions.
#6 If the child’s back is against the adult and/or a gentle pressure is given on the back of the child, a sense of ‘oneness’ generates trust, and joy in learning.