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Baby to Toddler

What impact will a hand difference have on my child’s developmental milestones?

We can confidently assure you that children with hand differences will always find their own way! They might take a little longer – and the way they do them might not look exactly like the way other children do – but they definitely do!

If you have any concerns you can contact an Occupational Therapist for further information, support and strategies. If you do not know where to find an OT, your GP or Maternal & Child Health Nurse will be able to recommend one.

Here are some examples of how Aussie Hands children have learnt to get around:

  • Rolling: They figure out the best way for their bodies. Sometimes, they have a preference to roll to one side.
  • Tummy Time: As babies use their hand(s) and forearms to push up, children with a hand difference might take a little more time to build strength. Some parents use a rolled up towel to prop their bubs up and use toys and other distractions to help them practice for longer. As you know, not all children enjoy tummy time: babies born with a hand difference are no different!
  • Crawling: It is amazing at how children will work this out. Sometimes they do a “commando crawl” using their forearms to support themselves. Others do a “bum shuffle”, like our friend Max here.

Here are some examples of how Aussie Hands children have learnt to get around:

  • Playing: All children love toys! And please feel welcome to introduce all toys to your child. You will be amazed at how children with hand differences find a way to manage the most fiddly bits. Check out Max and Alistair rocking their Lego collections!.

And watch Max swimming and pulling himself out of the pool at the age of 2 years and 3 months.

Here is what some Aussie Hands families had to say:

“Your child will do things when she or he is ready. Our 2nd daughter was born without her left hand and they sent us to an OT because they were concerned that she wouldn’t crawl, but she did. We didn’t see much difference to our first child, they all work it out when they’re ready”. (Donnell, Aussie Hands Dad)

“My daughter Amelia was born with no left arm from her elbow down. She didn’t really like tummy time but got used to it. Rolling was a bit slow and would only roll one way (onto her little arm side). Crawling was funny she commando crawled rather then “normal” crawl. We found walking the slowest just because her balance was a bit off. Otherwise she worked it all out on her own she was fully upright and walking by 15 months and then there is no stopping them”. (Kristy, Aussie Hands Mum).

What about surgical options?

Depending on your child’s hand difference, surgical options may be presented to you. A specialist surgical team can advise on what is possible on the basis of your child’s specific hand difference and needs. Options can include splitting fingers, removing nubbins, and toe-to-hand transfer.

Parents can find making decisions about surgery difficult, especially the toe-to-hand transfer procedure. Here at Aussie Hands, we will support families whatever they choose and are happy to connect them with families who have pursued surgical options and those who have chosen against them. We certainly recommend asking your surgical team as many questions as possible, and seeking subsequent opinions if you don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable.

Coping with other people’s stares and questions

It’s highly likely that people will notice that your child has a different hand and be curious. Some will be kind and considerate in their reactions and others won’t. And as you know, children don’t tend to hold back when it comes to asking questions!

It is important for you and your child to get out and about in the community. We know that children with hand differences thrive when exposed to lots of different social situations, just like any other child. Parents tell us that they find it helpful to have a “script” ready for when strangers ask about their child’s hand difference. Having a supportive friend or family member come along to the first few mothers group or play group meetings can also be really helpful.

As your child gets older, it’s important to skill them up to answer questions and set boundaries about their hand difference. Some children, when asked, will respond with a shrug and say, “I was born this way”. That is often enough for the child who is asking and within seconds they are back to the important task of playing! These children have usually seen their parents modelling a calm confident attitude, which helps them respond to questions like it’s no big deal.

Aussie Hands children have also had the benefit of connecting with older children and adults who have hand differences who are leading happy and successful lives. We warmly invite you and your child to join us at the various Aussie Hands events we hold during the year so that your child can benefit from these interactions too.