Hand-Under-Hand Instruction for Children With Blindness or Low Vision
If your child is blind or low vision, they can utilize the senses of touch, hearing, and smell to obtain information that typically sighted children gather visually. To help your child learn about the world and the things in it, try to involve all the senses when you are engaged and explaining something new.
If you are introducing your child to an unfamiliar safe item, describe the item to your child and encourage them to explore it using all of the other senses. It is through these experiences your child becomes an active, engaged learner.
Only after your child has independently explored (if time permits, to the heart’s content), you can invite your child to let your hands demonstrate proper use of the item. Utilizing your hands to guide your child’s hands is called hand-under-hand.
Some examples of activities in which your child will benefit from using hand-under-hand to learn include using a measuring spoon to scoop out baking soda when making cookies, pushing a button through a button hole when dressing, or positioning a pair of scissors to cut a line.
When using hand-under-hand, work from behind your child so that your hands and theirs will be moving in the same direction. If your child is young, you can sit them on your lap. When they are older, sit behind or next to them and reach your arms around.
Before you show your child how to do something using this method, try it yourself with your eyes closed. Pay attention to the steps you are taking to do the activity. Try to pick out things to point out to your child, such as the fact that buttonholes are near the edge of a blouse or shirt.
Most children need multiple demonstrations of a new task to learn it. Because your child may not be able to see another person doing a task clearly or at all, the only demonstration they may receive is the one felt through the use of hand-under-hand. Be patient and give many opportunities to practice a new skill when you are using either technique.
Some children are resistant to trying new activities. They’ll pull their hands away and won’t want to touch. Try to respect the message your child is giving you if this does happen. However, if your child is never encouraged to try new things, they won’t expand their understanding and interest in the world around them. Another option is to talk with your child’s early intervention team, about what strategies may work best for your child to try new activities. You might want to lovingly, yet firmly, encourage new activities using hand-under-hand.
When you use the hand-under-hand technique, your hands perform the activity while your child’s hands rest on top of yours—in this way, your child can feel what your hands are doing. If the activity is new to your child, and they are hesitant to try it, they may feel more secure touching your hands rather than the unknown object or activity. Also, because their palms are on your hands, they’ll be able to focus their energy on feeling the movements of your hands. They may also feel more comfortable and in control because they can freely remove her hands if she wants to. As you perform the activity, verbally describe what you are doing with your hands.
When you choose to use hand-under-hand, remember the important first step of allowing your child to explore and learn independently. Without this active engagement, your child can become a passive learner who is less likely to comprehend the lesson and is less enthused about the learning process.