Always, always remember that a student has a right to say no.
There are still times when we use physical prompting in our class, primarily when teaching a new motor skill.
Please remember that many – most – students do not need that physical support even with these skills. But some students struggle significantly with apraxia or other motor difficulties that benefit from some support.
But we do so cautiously.
We ask – “Can I help you?” […] give them the chance to give consent, or to say no.
Even if they cannot verbalize consent, I hold my hand out without grabbing them.
Do they put their hand on mine? Do they pull away? And they always should be allowed to pull away.
I think of it as if I was taking lessons to swing a golf club. The trainer may assist me by providing physical support to feel what a swing should be. But notice: the trainer is going to ask me if they can support me. And if I decide, mid-swing, this isn’t working for me and walk away – they are going to let me. The trainer is not going to chase me around the golf course, trying to grab my hands and arms. It sounds ridiculous, yet so often we do exactly that.
I interfere because, for me, hand-over-hand (I would like to draw a line at this point between “helping someone, with their consent, to move their hand/body through a motion so they get the feel for it,” and “hand-over-hand” as used in my therapy, which was always “grab the kid, forcibly restrain them, and then force their body to do what you want it to do, when they are actively not consenting or willing, and when they have no idea what is happening or why.” The first is something that I will do, always with consent, with kinesthetic learners. The second is something that was done to me, and it was called hand-over-hand) was uniformly traumatic.
It hurt, it took away my autonomy, it was frightening, it made me helpless. I screamed and cried during hand-over-hand, not because I was being willful or defiant as my parents and teachers and therapists thought, but because I was terrified and hurting.
And my parents, my teachers, my therapists – they were the ones causing the terror and pain. And they thought they were helping, but they weren’t.
I interfere because what I learned from hand-over-hand was not how to do the skills they were trying to teach properly (I am 27 and I still can’t write my name in cursive or sew a button or etc, obviously their occupational therapy to try to teach me cursive and other fine-motor skills failed abysmally), but rather that my pain didn’t matter, that my fear didn’t matter, that my body was not mine, and that might makes right.