Tag Archives: therapy

“Crocheting on the tube has pushed me out of my comfort zone”

Elisabeth Ward works in content marketing, and has an upper limb congenital amputation. Despite some challenging roadblocks, Lis likes to be creative and keeps a blog of her successes, difficulties, and more

I couldn’t find my craft

I’ve lived with my disability for 25 years. I’ve grown up facing challenges, finding my way around things so that I’m not excluded. I’ve always been a creative person. I enjoy drawing but art classes where I had to actually make or build something were just depressing, fiddly and frustrating. Everything I made looked like a child’s creation!

This stopped me making crafts for ten years – why put myself through that disappointment and frustration, because I lacked a second hand?

A knitting obsession was born

However, jealousy, stubbornness and determination threw this reluctance to the wind when I saw a friend become a knitter. One minute she had a ball of yarn and the next it was a cutePhoto showing one foreshortened arm holding a knitting needle and pink yarn strawberry hat. I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be able to start with materials, and end up with something that I could proudly say I made.

But I watched her knit and I couldn’t see a way around it. Two hands seemed to be essential. I looked at some YouTube videos, even checked out one-handed knitting videos (there weren’t many), and decided to just get some needles and yarn – I’d work out a system as I go. I found that holding a knitting needle under my arm and wrapping the yarn around my amputee arm was sufficient enough to allow me to knit with my left. From that point I was addicted. I felt confident and good, in my mind I had just achieved the impossible and it felt amazing.

Therapeutic benefits

Aside from the sense of achievement and excitement, I found knitting incredibly relaxing and therapeutic. I often worry about stuff I can’t control, from work stress to disability stress to general life stress, I feel like I’m juggling so many balls and with no right hand to catch them, I have to scramble around to keep them up in the air flying in all directions. Well, that’s how it feels anyway.

However, the repColourful wool knitted into s scarfetitive motion of knitting is one of the most relaxing things I have discovered – the familiar movement is comforting and calming in a way that is hard to describe. I’ve had days where unwinding from a hard day has seemed  impossible until I’ve picked up my knitting needles. I think that’s why it is so addictive – having your hands, or hand, busy, can help stress, anxiety, even sadness and anger leave your body. It’s almost magical.

Then came crochet

Once I mastered knitting, I had the bug and wanted to try crochet. This seemed simpler, one-handed even, as most of the yarn work was left-handed. It was trickier than I anticipated and very fiddly – I had to buy ergonomic hooks so that I could hold the hook between my amputee hand and my leg.

A selection of crochet squares in different coloursCrochet required perseverance and eventually I grasped the mechanics with my hook wedged between hand and leg. I sometimes find myself doing things a harder way because I haven’t taken a step back, looked around and thought ‘what can I use to make this easier?’. I’m usually too focused trying to do things as though I have two hands. But sometimes you just need a bit of help, even if it’s from an inanimate object. So I realised after about a week of practising that the ‘strap’ I use to hold my knife while eating would work well to hold my crochet hook.

I was able to speed up dramatically and it almost felt as though I had two hands.  My second craft addiction was born and I now live in a house overflowing with yarn!

It’s given me newfound confidence

I crochet on the tube as it’s easy to stop and start on the go, so I make a granny square during my commute. This takes every ounce of self-confidence I have. I don’t like people staring at my hand. I know it’s human nature but it makes me feel less human, like my hand defines me in their eyes, and I’m seen only as disabled.

A crochet circle with colourful patterns on itWhen I crochet, it’s different. People still look and stare, but now they see that despite missing a hand, I am capable of creating something beautiful, that I am many things and not defined by disability. It may just be in my head, but I feel that those watching me crochet one-handed see more than just a disabled girl. I also figure that the more people see it the less they will be shocked by it, helping to break the taboo.

Before, I would hide so that I wouldn’t be judged on my hand rather than my personality, I would hide so others wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or alter their behaviour. But crocheting on the tube has pushed me outside my comfort zone, helped me to not hide my hand when I leave the house.

Sense of achievement

Creating crafts has boosted my confidence, reduced my stress, helped me to find a peace within myself and has given me a pride and sense of achievement that I’ve never really had before. It’s helped me truly believe that I’m not defined by disability, I am defined by me, by my individuality, by my determination, by my weaknesses – I am a whole, not made up of just one but many parts.

My life has transformed and I hope to help other disabled people find their therapy in learning to knit or crochet, sharing my methods so they can find theirs – are you up for the challenge?

Do you have any creative hobbies that you find therapeutic? Elizabeth is on our online community now and would love to hear from you. You can also talk to her on Twitter @ElisabethWard04

“Oliver sees details the rest of us miss” – a young photographer’s story

Oliver is a young nature photographer who happens to have Down’s syndrome. Here, Oliver and his mum tell us what photography means to him.  

Q&A with Oliver

Scope: When did you first start taking photos?

Oliver: I was little – I was about 10 years old.

Scope: What is it about nature that you find so interesting?

Oliver: I like wildlife, I like birds and I like the landscape and taking pictures of the trees. I like water and I like going for walks out into ‘the wild’ and the countryside.

Close up photo of an eagleScope: Do you have a favourite animal?

Oliver: I like birds of prey and I really like long tailed tits.

Scope: How did you feel when you sold your first photograph?

Oliver: We had an exhibition and lots of people came to see my pictures. I gave a speech and we sold lots of pictures and with the money I bought a Chinese takeaway for us on the Sunday night when we finished, and bought a holiday in a cottage in Wales in the middle of nowhere! I’m very proud when I have an exhibition.

Scope: If you weren’t taking photos in your spare time, what do you think you’d be doing?

Oliver: I play football and snooker, and I don’t do so much skateboarding so much anymore. I read my books and my magazines and I like to watch TV. I still do bird-watching and walking in the countryside even if I don’t take pictures with my camera.green forest and woodland

Scope: What would you say to other young disabled people who don’t have much confidence?

Oliver: Just do it. Just go out there and do what you want!

Scope: How have your followers on Facebook and the publicity around your photos made you feel?

Oliver: It’s good. I like it. My fans say ‘that’s amazing!’ about my pictures and write messages to me. Yeah it’s good. I like it when we get more places to put on the map!

Wendy, Oliver’s mum

Oliver was born with Down’s syndrome, and severe cardiac issues requiring open heart surgery at three months old. During his early years he was also diagnosed with severe hypotonia (poor muscle tone) and verbal dyspraxia. I was told he wouldn’t be able to take part in sporting activities, and that his speech would probably never reach a point where he could be understood by an unfamiliar lA baby photograph of Oliver with blonde hairistener. However with belief, determination and input from myself and Oliver’s big sister Anna (who was eight when he was born)  by the time he was eight years old he was skateboarding as well as playing football, basketball and snooker, and at 10 years old was asking perfectly clearly for a Subaru Imprezza with a spoiler on the back and a Bugatti Veyron for his birthday!

Oliver is testament to the fact that anyone can achieve and prove negative predictions to be wrong, when they are surrounded by optimism, belief, determination and encouragement. My partner Mike has been best mate and stepfather all rolled into one for Oliver – they both love wildlife, the countryside, and bird-watching. Mike came into Oliver’s life when Oliver was nine. When Oliver was about 10 or 11 he started to want to take photos “like Mike”.

A close-up of some green ivy leavesMike’s targeted tuition and guidance has helped Oliver to use the world of photography as both a tool for him to record what he sees in the way he sees it, and as something which brings Oliver a great sense of pride and self-esteem. He takes pictures of everything and anything which ‘catches’ his eye and will spend as much time and effort on a torn and ragged leaf or some broken sticks as he will on a beautiful bloom. He loves the light catching anything and particularly water. He will spend ages capturing splashes at the bottom of a waterfall or in a rocky river. Birds are probably his greatest love and his knowledge and ability to identify any bird at a glance and even from a distance is astounding. Oliver takes pictures of things other people walk past because he notices the detail the rest of us miss. He sees beauty where we do not, and to a certain extent his having Down’s syndrome ‘releases’ him from the ‘rules’ and expectations of what is perceived to be worthy of a picture, which the rest of us adhere to without even realising. Oliver makes weeds look brilliant!

He is a truly inspirational young man who loves life and loves what he does, and seeks to be a ‘professional’ earning a proper income from his talent. His achievements are changing and improving the expectations A robin standing on some grassof others, championing disability, and helping to banish outdated and negative stereotypes associated with Down’s syndrome. We receive so many heart-warming messages from parents of disabled children explaining the huge difference Oliver has made to their lives by restoring hopes, dreams and aspirations for their children. He illustrates just how important it is that we value and enjoy diversity in society, and spreads the news that ‘difference’ can be something to be truly celebrated.

Oliver was recently featured in a lovely film piece on the One Show, and on BBC news worldwide. He’s currently crowdfunding for his first coffee table book to be published – so get in quick and bag yourself a copy of the first edition. 

You can visit Oliver’s website to see and purchase his photographs as prints or greetings cards. You can also like Oliver’s Facebook page and get up to date news from his sightings in your newsfeed. Feeling inspired?