III 2018 – VIDEO 1 – if you see us tapping
Picture if you will a scene.
You walk past the open door to a room where Us in a Bus are running their weekly session. You notice that one of the practitioners is tapping the arm of someone’s wheelchair. There is a pause and then they tap the handle bars. Then the foot plate. What could possibly be going on?
Well, at its simplest, this is an example of us finding additional ways to show our interactive partner that we’ve noticed what they are doing or saying. We could be responding to a movement they’re making, a sound they’re uttering or even something as simple as the rhythm of their breathing. The additional sensory input a tap provides, creates even more opportunity for our responses to be noticed, processed and assimilated. The variety in location of the tap is us exploring if someone seems to notice some locations more than others.
The taps may form part of a turn taking conversation, for instance they wiggle their foot three times and we tap their footplate three times. This may develop, as we get to know people better and form stronger relationships, into us tapping their actual foot, observing their responses and adapting when necessary.
Some people seem to enjoy quite firm contact in these types of interaction and this may be because they need, or seek, additional proprioceptive feedback. Our proprioceptive sense helps us understand where our body is in relation to our environment and movement against a surface is a good way of getting this sensory input.
Or they might just find it funny!
Some people prefer gentler contact that is hardly noticeable, especially if they are already experiencing over stimulation of their sense of touch. The fact that we continuously observe responses and reactions and make adjustments as necessary, is vital. It ensures we are constantly mindful of the physical comfort and sensory needs of those we’re working with.
The tapping may be part of a more shared and continuous communication, perhaps if someone is rocking very rhythmically. We will almost certainly rock too, and tapping provides an additional way for us to reinforce our responses, making them as easily recognisable to our interaction partner as possible. This may develop into musical interactions, using the speed and intensity of the rocking to dictate the route the music takes, and we have experienced many times the moment when someone realises the music is being controlled by them. They are, in some respects, “composing” and there is something extremely moving about these types of interactions. Our experience indicates that the realisation the sounds and music are being influenced by them can be empowering and builds self-confidence.
The tapping interaction may also be illustrative of an exploration of intentionality. Our interaction partner may be telling us when or where to tap. They may be using their eyes, by looking, or they may be moving parts of their body. When approached in a playful way, with constant regard for our purpose when using any sort of physical interaction, it can be an excellent way of exploring “control”. It often ends up with shared laughter.
If you see us tapping, why not watch a little longer and notice what we might be responding to.