Reading Hands Can with one hand

handscan2I am very pleased to say that Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson is now available in paperback.  This picture book was first published ten years ago, and it has become a preschool favorite.  The bright colors, simple rhyme, and real-life photographs make it a good choice for 2-6 year-olds learning about their bodies and celebrating all the cool stuff they can do.  Not to mention it is great for talking about what it is like to have one hand with little kids.

That might seem like an odd thing to say because there are no one-handed kids in the book, but I have found this book to be a great jumping off point as I talk to kids because they tend to be most curious about the basics.   For example, these are real questions I have gotten from kids:

  • “How do you hug?”
  • “How do you put pajamas on?”
  • “Can you hold hands?”
A peek inside Hands Can

A peek inside Hands Can

Most adults can see obvious answers to these questions, but younger kids (under age 7 or so in my own personal experience) have a hard time working through these questions without guidance.  This is where Hands Can comes in.  I like to take each activity photographed in the book as a brainstorming session.  From the very first page with the little boy waving hello, I ask for other ways we say hello.  Kids can give creative answers.  After all, we might use our voice, our eyes, one hand, or maybe two if we are very excited.  I might demonstrate how I tie my shoes when we get to that page or have them come up with ways to accomplish other tasks with one hand or some other physical restriction for an exercise in problem solving.

In the spirit of answering questions about what I can do, I thought I would answer the one question that doesn’t really get asked: “Is there anything you can’t do with one hand?” Most people probably assume there are lots and lots of things I can’t do, but there are surprisingly few.  It took me a while to come up with these, but here are three things that are difficult (not impossible) to do with my prosthetic arm (and my work-arounds) :

  • Grinding pepper.  For a long time, I just bought ground pepper so that I didn’t have this problem, but my husband is a bit of a foodie who likes things like freshly ground pepper, which means that peppering my food becomes a much more difficult task than it had been in the past.  Usually I just ask for help, but I have been coveting the battery operated pepper grinder at my mother-in-law’s house.  Technology, for the win! 
  • Ziploc bags.  These are difficult because my prosthesis does not grip tightly enough to hold the bag while I am zipping it closed.  To get around this, I can secure the bag against something and zip.  In a pinch, I have been known to use my teeth.  It isn’t classy, but it gets to job done.
  • Headphones/ear muffs.  I can put on headphones or ear muffs well enough, but I feel like I look a little silly when I do it because my fake arm doesn’t bend all the way to my ear.  Fortunately, I really don’t use either of these things very often.  As you might imagine, I was an early adopter of ear buds.

For more information see my FAQ about my fake arm or this article in Book Links magazine about the books I use to talk about my disability.

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3 thoughts on “Reading Hands Can with one hand

  1. The idea of using a picture book focused on hands as a jumping off point for talking to kids about hand/arm differences is really neat! If I ever find myself called upon to talk to a class of young kids about my hand differences from ABS I might borrow that approach. Thank you so much for sharing the idea!

    Sometimes when I am around young kids it is like my hands are attention magnets–they just follow my hands until I explain them. Sometimes they can’t even focus on what I am saying until their questions about my hands are addressed. Up till now this hasn’t been too hard to navigate since I am only occasionally around large groups of children, but when I become a mom in a few years I can imagine it may be very helpful to have some strategies like this in my back pocket just in case.

    Also, I have often wondered how to “deal with” picture books about hands where all the hands shown are complete and regularly formed. No matter how cute the text and illustrations are, I tend to feel a little nonplussed while looking through them, wondering, “What would it be like for my kids to read this, having a mom with hands that don’t look like any of these?” I’ve felt some frustration with the authors for not preparing kids to see a wide range of hands as “normal” (this often/sometimes applies to skin-tone of the hands and children shown too). The idea of seeing picture books about hands as jumping off points, as opposed to stumbling blocks, appeals to me.

    And finally, my favorite one-handed pepper grinder: http://www.amazon.com/Chefn-GRabbit-Pepper-Grinder-Black/dp/B004ECI04I One-handed _and_ shaped like an adorable bunny :-)

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