If you or your child are living with a disability that affects the use of one hand, you may find it challenging to do seemingly easy tasks such as tying your shoe or opening a jar. Although it may seem hopeless, or that you will never be able to accomplish some of these things on your own, there is a way around everything and as a person who cannot use her left hand, I thought I’d share some of the unique methods I use to overcome my every day challenges.
1. Putting toothpaste on a toothbrush: As one of the first things everyone does in the morning, very few people realize that you need two hands to put toothpaste on a toothbrush: one to hold the toothbrush and one to squeeze the toothpaste out.
There are two methods you can use to accomplish this task one handed. First, you can hold the toothbrush in the bend of your “bad arm’s” elbow and place the toothpaste on your toothbrush with your “good hand”. Another option is to simply place the handle of your toothbrush in your mouth while squeezing the toothpaste onto the brush.
2. Zipping a jacket: To complete this task, you’ll definitely need a little bit of dexterity. The first step is to take the zipper latch in the palm of your hand. Once you are resting it there, reach across your body and grab the fastener piece. The last step in this process is to secure the two together. Prior to pulling the zipper up the jacket, listen for the “click” of the two pieces. After that sound is heard, you can proceed pulling up the zipper, watching your jacket close.
3. Cracking an egg: This food item is used in many recipes and you certainly won’t want any eggshells in your food! Begin this task by first getting an egg and standing next to a counter. Much like someone using two hands, you will tap the egg against the counter until a small crack is made. Now comes the difficult part: getting the egg out of the shell. To accomplish this, simply take your thumb and middle finger, press on either side of the crack, and begin pulling the two sides apart.
4. Tying your shoe: OK, this task requires a bit more work than the ones discussed above. The first step is actually to unlace your sneaker. Because you are only using one hand, you do not need two laces to tie your shoe! To re-lace your shoe, you first need to consider which hand you will be using when tying the shoe. If you are going to be using your right hand, begin by taking the shoelace in your hand and threading it through the furthest left hole nearest your toes so only 2 inches or so hang out the end (this will ensure that the lace comes out on the right side at the end of the process). If you are going to be using your left hand, reverse the previous step.
Next, you want to criss-cross the longer end of your shoelace through the holes, allowing it to resemble a two-laced shoe. Once you get to the top of your shoe (near the tongue), you will want to ensure that the lace comes out on the desired side….if it does not, simply unlace everything and begin again.
Now, to actually begin the process of tying your shoe. Take the lace in your hand and form a medium sized loop. Next, slide that loop under the last criss-crossed lace resting on the tongue of your shoe, leaving the extra material dangling at the side. You can now slide the lace back and forth, adjusting its size so it won’t drag on the floor as you walk.
Once the lace is at your desired length, take the extra material you rested at the side of your shoe earlier and wrap it around the loop. After it has made a full circle, securely knot it by pulling the end of the shoelace through the small space separating the large loop from the extra material. You have now successfully tied your shoe and the only thing you have left to complete is knotting the lace at the toe portion of your shoe so it doesn’t slide out of place and your lace remains the same length.
5. Peeling an orange: If you are a fruit lover, peeling an orange may be an important task you want to do yourself. While yes, you can cut the orange with a knife, peeling is a surefire way to make sure you get to eat the entire orange.
There are two ways you can go about accomplishing this task. The first thing you can do is place the orange on a plate, stabilizing it against a stationary object, and using a knife to make a small slit in the peel. Once you have a break in the peel, you can begin removing it from the fruit.
Your other option is to take the orange in your hand and use your thumb to break the peel. This process might be a little bit more challenging, but it works just as well. Once the peel has received its initial break, you can remove it and enjoy your orange!
6. Cutting food during dinner: Considering you cannot use the typical “hold the food with your fork and cut with your knife” method of eating meats such as chicken or beef, you will need to get a little creative. The easiest way to cut your protein during dinner is to first ensure that the plate is firmly placed on the table and will not slide around. Next, you can simply take your knife and, placing the knife tip into your food first, press along the length of the protein until a full cut has been made. Continue this process until you have bite sized pieces, then enjoy!
7. Opening jars: This is a task that very few people recognize as difficult. If you need to open a jar one handed, your best option is to hold it between your knees, or your other arm and body, and twist with your hand until the lid pops off.
When you need to open a tightly secured jar, try running the lid under hot water. If you need to open a small container with a twist off top (such as a travel salad container), try to grasp the lower half between the palm of your hand and your ring and pinky fingers. Once you feel you have a secure grip, use your thumb and pointer finger to try to loosen the seal….Small containers such as these can be particularly challenging so if you have difficulty with it, don’t feel bad asking someone for help.
8. Pulling food out of the oven when it is cooking on the rack: While it is easy to pull cooking food out of the oven if it is in a pan – simply open the oven door, put on an oven mitt, take the pan out and close the door, taking food out that is cooking directly on the rack, such as pizza, presents a whole new challenge.
Using the example of pizza, your best option for taking it out of the oven when it is fully cooked is to use the oven rack beneath it. If you cook the pizza on the middle rack, you can use your one hand to pull the bottom rack out halfway—place your plate on this rack. Once your hand is free from holding the plate, you can now use a fork to pull the pizza out of the oven and onto the plate.
9. Typing on a keyboard: Everyone knows that keyboards were designed to be used two-handed, but if you can only use one hand, it’s not the end of your digital days. Simply take a few minutes and learn the general location of the keys and begin moving your hand across the board, using each finger to hit the keys you need. Do not rely solely on your pointer finger for this will slow down the typing process and is not necessary if you can use each finger.
10. Fastening a necklace or bracelet: If you are trying to secure a piece of jewelry
around your neck or non-dominant wrist, it will undoubtedly be hard, not impossible though. Your first step is to take the jewelry and place it around your body. A necklace will be used as an example here. Once you have the necklace around your neck and both ends in your hand, take the two end pieces and bring them around to the front of your body. Using a mirror now, use two of your fingers (whichever are most comfortable) to open the fastener. After this piece is open and you are able to hold the position with your two fingers, take the fingers holding the latch piece and slide it into place, closing the fastener at the end.
While this is only a short list of the many things that can be done one handed, it covers many of the basic tasks that you will likely encounter on an everyday basis. The important thing to remember when trying to do anything one handed, either something from this list or another task, is do not give up. Everyone has their own method for doing things and these instructions are not written in stone. Try everything and, if one of the methods is not successful for you, play around with the situation and figure out what works for you.
If you are located in New Jersey and are seeking more advice about physical therapy services where you or your child can learn how to do even more things one handed, consider contacting Progressive Hand Therapy in Westwood, NJ. They have a full team of skilled therapists who can provide advice or therapy services and will happily assist you on your journey towards living a successful life with one hand.
Do you have a child with special needs who can only use one hand? Do they have cool tricks to accomplish certain tasks? Share your methods below!