About This Site
My goal for this website is to share how to raise a balanced, healthy, resilient child with an upper body limb difference (or hand/arm) with creativity, connection, empathy, and humor
There has never been a better time to grow up with a limb difference. Just in the past twenty years, a societal revolution in how people view physical differences has occurred. Thankfully, much of the stigma surrounding limb difference has disappeared, replaced by acceptance of and celebration of differences. Not only that, but because of social media, it is possible now to connect with people all over the world who are raising children with similar limb differences. There are so many fabulous resources out there, including children's books, family and summer camps, excellent medical care, prosthetics, support groups ... the list goes on.
But despite all of the incredible resources and organizations that have been created, I have noticed over the course of my professional career that there often is a surprising lack of nuance around many topics related to limb differences for children. My mission is to share a nuanced perspective on growing up and living with a hand/arm difference in order for families to have greater awareness in how they raise their children. More specifically, I hope to introduce a lifespan framework that addresses children's cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development. I also hope to expand thinking around how functioning with a hand/arm difference is different from typical development, what unique issues families may face, and how children with hand/arm differences can grow to adulthood emotionally and physically resilient and strong.
Some principles that I attempt to share are:
- No matter what they are or are not able to do, all children deserve love and acceptance, regardless of their physical differences.
- All children need and deserve accompaniment from a trusted adult when they experience difficult feelings.
- Children with differences ought to have the same opportunities as "typical" children to seek opportunities for fulfillment.
- Children with differences should neither be limited by others' definitions of their abilities nor be encouraged to do every single thing that "typical" children do.
- Children who are connected to a community of individuals who face similar challenges have an opportunity to hear that their experiences are “normal.”
- Limb difference is one aspect of a child's uniqueness but not their whole being.
Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to make a difference by contributing to others' well being. This website is the fulfillment of that longing. My hope is that family, friends, and therapists will find this website inspirational, informative, and a source of support. The investment of time and effort to gather and share the experiences, insights, resources, and suggestions on this site is inspired by my deep care for children and their families, as well as my hope that families experience joy in raising their children.
What I share on this site comes from a variety of places:
- My personal experiences as a person who has experienced growing up and living with an upper limb difference for five decades
- My experiences as a pediatric occupational therapist who has worked with hundreds of children, both typically developing and those with special needs, for two decades
- My experiences raising two children to their teenage years (so far)
Other material has been gleaned from conversations with children and adults with limb differences, contributions from parents raising children with limb differences, parenting books, and psychology and occupational therapy research. Whenever possible, I have tried to include the voices of others to offer authentic experiences and expand the range of circumstances represented.
I encourage you to take whatever lessons and learnings from this site that resonate for you and leave behind what doesn't. There is no one right way to do anything, including and especially raising children. There are all kinds of children, so what is helpful for one child may not be as beneficial for another child even with the same difference. Ultimately, the best way to discover what is best for children is to get to know them as whole beings. What do they love and are inspired by? Are they introverted, extroverted, or ambiverted? What comes easily for them and what do they find challenging? What brings them joy and what gifts do they bring others? What motivates them to engage with others and what shuts them down?
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes in The Triumph of Life:
It is a challenge and a privilege for parents to detect, nurture, and respond to the unique qualities, tastes, and needs of each child. Uniqueness — as the dignities of infinite value and equality — grows in its confirmation. That is, when loved ones respond affirmatively and confirm an individual’s unique behavior or view, then that person’s sense of being unique expands and deepens.
All children with hand/arm differences grow up secure, confident, and able to fulfill their life dreams.
Wouldn't it be so amazing if all children with limb differences...
- Felt supported, held, cherished; if all children with different hands/arms/limbs were held and cherished as beautiful and special
- Knew that their needs would be recognized, respected, and sometimes even anticipated
- Trusted that their parents or special adults would help problem-solve no matter what challenge or struggle they faced
- Never had to feel that they had to "go it all alone" or "figure it all out" until they felt ready or wanted to do that
- Knew that they would be seen and treated as whole people who happened to have a limb difference, not primarily as people who needed to "overcome" a deficiency or deficit
- Were surrounded by people who appreciate, cherish, and see their entire selves
- Felt empowered to stand up for themselves when other children or adults named limitations that don't exist
- Knew how to respond to hurtful, inappropriate, or unwanted comments
- Felt comfortable asking for and receiving help from others
- Grew up in a world that celebrates and respects differences
- Understood the balance between doing anything they set their minds and hearts to while appreciating that using body parts in an asymmetrical way puts cumulative strain on overused parts
All parents/guardians raising children with hand/arm differences feel empowered to raise secure, confident, and resilient children who are able to fulfill their life dreams.
Wouldn’t it be so amazing if all parents raising children with limb differences…
- Had the physical, cognitive, and emotional resources to support, hold, and cherish their children with different hands/arms/limbs as beautiful and unique
- Felt empowered to help their children problem-solve, no matter what challenge or struggle they faced
- Never felt that they had to "go it all alone" on their parenting journey because they were connected with a warm community of others traveling the same path
- Knew that their children would be seen and treated as whole people who happened to have limb differences, not primarily as people who needed to "overcome" a deficiency or deficit
- Were surrounded by people who also appreciated, cherished, and saw their children’s entire selves
- Felt empowered to support their children to stand up for themselves when other children or adults named limitations that don't exist
- Knew how to respond to their children with empathy and validation when they experienced hurtful, inappropriate, or unwanted comments/attention
- Understood the balance between encouraging their children to do anything they set their minds and hearts to while appreciating that using body parts in an asymmetrical way puts cumulative strain on overused parts
Hello! My name is Laura Faye Clubok, and I am a registered and licensed occupational therapist (OTR/L) who also has a congenital hand difference. I earned my undergraduate degree at Harvard University and my master's degree in occupational therapy (OT) at the Boston School of Occupational Therapy at Tufts University. My passion for my profession was sparked at the age of 8 when I began receiving OT services to help me manage tasks with one typical hand and one hand with a thumb.
Over the past two decades I have provided pediatric OT services through my private practice On The Other Hand Therapy. I have treasured the opportunity to improve the lives of hundreds of typically-developing children and children with a variety of cognitive, developmental, physical, and sensory processing difficulties in my community. In addition to working directly with children, I have presented to local educators and parents about fine motor skill development and movement, facilitated motor groups for preschools and elementary schools, and collaborated and consulted with educators on handwriting instruction and incorporating multisensory learning into school curricula. In addition, a mentorship experience that I created for undergraduates interested in pursuing occupational therapy has significantly enriched my work. The long term mentoring relationships with the college interns have proved as meaningful as the connections with my clients and their families. I feel so delighted to have the privilege of guiding the next generation of clinicians in my profession.
My story, "A Debt Repaid," was published in the inspirational book, Ordinary Miracles: True Stories About Overcoming Obstacles & Surviving Catastrophes, edited by Deborah R. Labovitz PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA. The book is a compilation of 96 true stories about everyday miracles experienced by ordinary people. My story, Chapter 26 of the book, recounts how my experiences receiving occupational therapy as a child inspired me to pursue a career in OT. It relates a beautiful experience when I shared my professional expertise with the family of a little girl named Emily who has a hand difference just like mine.
If you would like to contribute an anecdote, information, photo, or resources to the site, or if you would like to offer thoughts on how the content could be improved or expanded, kindly contact us. Constructive feedback and expressions of how this website has helped you are warmly welcomed. This should go without saying, but if your feedback is mostly negative and critical, I encourage you to write your own website the way you think it should be written.
About the Name & Logo
The name of this website originates from a line from the well-known comedian Steven Wright, who said, "On the other hand … you have different fingers." When I heard this line, my response was, "On the other hand … I have a thumb!"
The heart-within-a-hand logo is inspired from two sources. First is a verse from Psalm 24, 3-5:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord
and who may stand in the place of G-d's holiness?
The clean of hands and the pure of heart,
who has not borne my soul in vain,
and has not sworn deceitfully.
They will bear G-d's blessing
and righteousness from the G-d of their deliverence.
The second source is the motif, widely used in Middle Eastern cultures, known as the chamsa. It alternately represents good luck, the hand of God, and the hand of healing. It is often depicted as an upside-down hand in conjunction with other symbols, such as hearts.
And finally, here's the story behind my original logo, which I created out of craft foam hands: One day, after an appointment with a hand physician whose comments about my different hand reflected a lack of empathy and understanding, I decided to get crafty! I cut four fingers off of a pre-made FunFoam hand and glued a heart in the middle of the palm. I cut the tips of the fingers to make nails for the intact hand. Glueing the foam hands onto my work bag was so satisfying! For many years after that, when my pediatric clients would ask what "happened" to my hand, I would use the foam hands to explain rather than my actual left hand. The clients would then create their own hands out of craft foam and we would have a great conversation about differences.
I encourage parents of children with hand differences to do this art project with their children, to enable them to create their own hands. FunFoam is available at most craft stores and dollar stores in sheets as well as pre-cut shapes, some with sticky backings. Kids like FunFoam, and they like art projects. Have fun! ❤️
Copyright & Content Usage Policy
All information contained on this website, including, but not limited to, text, graphics, logos, and button icons is copyrighted and may not be used in any way, in whole or in part, without ontheotherhand.org's prior written consent, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews; or as provided by US copyright law.
Please note that every child's situation is unique. The information contained on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to serve as medical advice or to replace consultation with qualified health professionals who are familiar with your child's individual medical needs. As always, be sure to consult with your child's medical practitioners before beginning a new exercise or treatment program. Ontheotherhand.org will not be liable or responsible for any damages or injuries caused by use of the site (such as omissions or misstatements). Also, just as a responsible medical doctor will not prescribe treatment over the Internet, neither will I offer therapeutic intervention by e-mail. I appreciate your understanding! Some names have been changed to protect the identity of minors.
Ontheotherhand.org contains links as a convenience to you. Such links should not be considered as endorsements of other sites, products, or services. No one at ontheotherhand.org receives any compensation for our advice or product recommendations, but we do occasionally receive free samples to try.
I wish to thank all of the people who have taken the time to email me and give feedback about this site. I am especially grateful to all of the parents who have shared photos and information about their beautiful children over many years.
I feel deep appreciation for my clients and their families, my teachers, my colleagues, and my mentors, in the fields of OT and beyond, who have guided my learning over two decades, making the development of this website possible.
I also am especially grateful to several communities that have contributed support, information, and resources, and many of which simultaneously have helped me to grow as a person:
- NVC/Compassionate Communication Center of Ohio/CNVC - all of these organizations share Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication paradigm
- LFP Adult Facebook group - for adults with congenital and acquired upper limb differences
- The numerous organizations, camps, hospitals and clinics who work with children with limb differences every day
- So many of my close friends have heard me go on and on about this website, growing up with a hand difference, etc. You know who you are and you are treasures in my life!
- The student interns from Capital, OSU, and Otterbein who have worked with me and who have rekindled my love of occupational therapy
- Several wonderful Jewish congregations and organizations with which I have been affiliated over many years and their outstanding clergy and participants
I wish that I could list, by name, all of the amazing people, as well as all of my family members and friends, who continually inspire me and convey their confidence in my ideas and visions.
I specifically want to thank several special people by name for their outstanding contributions.
- I am very grateful for the website design, graphics, and photos:
- The original site was designed by Debbie Richards of DebsWebs.
- Polina Tolkacheva generously converted the outdated website to a cool, new modern look.
- Natalie Weinhaus created and designed many of the graphics.
- Efrat Greenfeld updated my logo from the original heart in hand to the beautifully stylized hand with embedded heart and designed the layout of this website. Beth Binsky built on the design to create the "On the other hand I HAVE A THUMB" logo and envisioned the website with two areas of focus, therapy and limb difference.
- Kelley Femia created the adorable icons on this site as well as many other cool graphics!
- Many thanks to @olgambillia for the lovely photos she took of me in Kalamata, Greece!
- My family has been super supportive of my work:
- My husband and best friend, Kenneth Clubok, continually badgered me with, "Have you worked on the website yet?" and spent hours upon hours initially creating this site. Please read this poem that I wrote to Ken.
- My daughters R and S have been a huge source of encouragement and enthusiasm about all of my professional endeavors and I am so fortunate for their support. They may have fielded many somewhat panicked questions about Instagram, but of course I will cover their therapy someday if need be.
- My dear college friend, Jennifer Meeropol, whom I met when I was 19, has helped me over the years with all aspects of my professional life.
- My upper limb difference buddy Julia Betancourt (@julesbeta) expertly edited and proof-read countless drafts and documents, providing super helpful "lived experience" input!
- My NVC "empathy buddies" Sasha Alexander, Turiya Grace, Veronica Kleeman, Beth Klerekoper, Kathleen Kunze, and Karuna Nunyara read various drafts of content and gave me invaluable feedback.
- I have been so fortunate to work with incredible mentors/healers over the past decade plus:
- Mary Shields, Ph.D. helped me to recover from fibromalygia and significantly lessen chronic pain.
- CNVC Certified Trainer Kristin Masters has brought empathy and resonance to my reflections and memories around my hand difference. I attribute my understanding of "resonance" to neuroscience educator Sarah Peyton.
- I feel immense gratitude to the many amazing personal helpers and/or babysitters who have became dear to my family over many years, including Miss Toni Snow, Jochele (Kennedy) Miller, Tanya Shats, Lisa Steelman, Noble Erikson, and Mae Greentree.
- Ivonne Ramirez volunteered to translate the site into Spanish so that more families would be able to access the site.
- Patricia Burton, RN, MSN, founder of Moving Mountains for Kids, a healthcare and educational consulting company, gave me permission to adapt her suggestions for handling grief and loss.
- I have been blessed to have several amazing mentors and colleagues.
- Marian Knox has been my friend and mentor for over a decade as I learned the ropes of working as a school-based OT.
- Alex Wolf, COTA, has helped me as a friend/colleague/role model with so many aspects of my private practice, always cheering on new endeavors and problem solving challenges.
- Isla Murden, OTR/L, hired me as a newly-minted OT as my first boss in Columbus, Ohio.
- Priscilla Hayden-Sloane, OTR, my level II Fieldwork supervisor during my OT master's degree program, guided me in learning to work with children.
- Dr. Sharan L. Schwartzberg, EdD, OT, FAOTA, CGP, FAGPA, was my mentor and boss during my graduate school years at BSOT.
The following individuals have been invaluable by contributing content/ideas via email:
- Henry B.
- Kim Green
- Kim Vogelgesang
- Laura Tofinchio
Finally, there is no way for me to express my gratitude fully for the kindness and generosity of my parents. George and Barbara Harris recognized my ambition and invested in my education, both of which have enabled me to pursue my professional aspirations. Equally, I am indebted to them for many of the loves and passions in my life, particularly learning, reading, nature, and my religious tradition. ❤️
We are so thrilled that you found us! Please let us know how we can help you on your journey parenting a child with a hand/arm difference.