Hands Off That Kid!

adult hand holding child's hand with text reading
“Sally can solve addition equations with 100% accuracy when the teacher tells her what the answer is.”

If you read that on your child’s progress report, you might do a spit take, right? For one, Sally didn’t “solve” squat. Why is telling her the answer a measure of Sally’s progress? It’s nonsense! Unacceptable! The lowest of lows in pedagogy!

However, plenty of progress reports have gone out this year with some variation of the following:

“Aiden can request preferred activities from a choice of three objects with maximum physical (hand over hand) assistance.”

How in the world did Aiden request something if staff were the ones grabbing Aiden’s hand and pointing? I ask teams working with students why they are using hand over hand instead of any other number of solutions, and they tend to answer with a combination of the following:

“He has such involved motor issues, he can’t touch it unless we do hand over hand.”

“She won’t pay attention unless we do.”

“He won’t do it otherwise.”

You know what is interesting about those objections? They are about us, the adult, and not about our students. Our students with complex bodies need alternative ways of pointing, not hand over hand. Our students with poor attention need engaging and motivating environments, not hand over hand. If your students won’t do without hand over hand, you doing it for them is not a data point. Our students need to learn, and we simply cannot hand over hand their brains.white text on black background

When we decide not to grab student’s hands, we are making a statement of trust and respect to our students. We model. We wait. We think about our materials, change them so they are accessible. We do any number of things because we are saying:

I will wait. I will not force you to perform at my speed.

I will watch. I will adjust and adapt to be a good teacher and communication partner for you.

I will discover with you. Everyone is engaged by something, and we can never know what you know unless you are engaged, first. We will find those things that work for you.

I will reflect. The data we take will be meaningful and help drive decision making, so you can communicate whatever you want to say, or show what you know.

What are you saying to your students today?

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Comments 1

Rachel Herron on Monday, 12 February 2018 07:18

I just love this blog and wish I had been of this mind set when I was working directly with students with significant communication needs. There has been such an incredible shift in thinking about the student and who he or she is versus our need to "get the job done" with communication. I am so happy to see you continually educating others and challenging people to think about WHO is doing the communication! Great blog!

I just love this blog and wish I had been of this mind set when I was working directly with students with significant communication needs. There has been such an incredible shift in thinking about the student and who he or she is versus our need to "get the job done" with communication. I am so happy to see you continually educating others and challenging people to think about WHO is doing the communication! Great blog!
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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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