The Problems with Hand-Over-Hand v2.0

Hand-over-hand as a teaching strategy is increasingly being defined as restrictive practice. However, I still find that many people working in this area use hand-over-hand as a teaching strategy without being aware of the problems around it - or the fact that there are other, more effective, teaching strategies.

In 2021, I published an Infographic called "The Problems with Hand-Over-Hand." Today I have updated it with further information - and I'd love as many people as possible to share the updated infographic so that we can continue to spread the word about the problems with this approach - and what we should be using instead!

The previous version of this handout focused simply on the concerns about using this approach - but in version 2.0 I have added in a link to Biederman, Fairhall & Davey (1998). In this research, the authors demonstrate that passive modelling is more effective in teaching new skills to students with developmental disabilities than either hand-over-hand or verbal prompting. One sentence in the article makes me sad: "Our evidence therefore indicates that current methods for teaching basic skills to children with severe developmental delays may require reassessment because simple observation of modeled skills appears to be more effective than more labor-intensive instruction". 25 years later, the technique they demonstrated wasn't as effective as modelling, continues to be used by many. And, in this freely available article they reference other studies which come to the same conclusion.

So, please share the infographic below and let everyone know - hand-over-hand isn't just restrictive practice, it's also less effective practice!

The-Problems-with-Hand-Over-Hand (Download PDF version of the handout with clickable links)
Le-probleme-avec-le-main-sur-la-main (Download French version of the PDF translated by Mathilde Mella)

Spread the word. Share this post!

Comments (7)

  1. Helen Brunner


    Hi Jane. Great post! I don't seem to be able to access the whole article though without paying for access???

    • jane


      Hi Helen, I'm not sure why that is happening - definitely not something I've set up. Can you try a different browser? Can you try a different blog post on my site?

      • Helen


        Sorry I meant the research article. Your post says its freely available but when I follow the link the full article is behind a pay wall so only part of the abstract available to read

  2. Reply

    Please everyone remember that hand under hand isn't a replacement for hand over hand. Hand under hand often gives the illusion of the the individual having more choice and autonomy - but it is just an illusion. Children are trained from a very young age, especially children with special needs to "accept assistance" and using hand under hand ends with the same results as hand over hand. It sends a message that being "correct" is more important than doing things on your own, it increases learned helplessness, it primes children to be abused, it builds an inner view that they must allow their bodies to be touched and moved regardless of their opinions. Any physical prompt is problematic. It's time we all move beyond them.

    • jane


      HI Kate - I agree - which is why both the article and the infographic don't even mention hand-under-hand. Not sure why you've brought it up - wondering if this is part of a conversation from somewhere else? Jane

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *