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DECI DirectorLetter from the DECI Director

As a grandmother, I enjoy certain rituals with my granddaughter that my son and his wife may not always exactly condone. On a recent visit to my home, I was giving Indie a manicure; gently massaging her tiny hands, carefully painting each finger and, of course, applying little flowers of nail art... when I was reminded of a recent article I read in Exchange about "touch" (see reference at end of article).  

 I thought about how many times I had interacted with my granddaughter through the use of my hands:  holding her bottle, caressing her forehead, patting her back to gently soothe her, feeding her, holding her own hands as she learned to stand and walk, firmly but lovingly grasping hands as we enjoyed adventures out and about.

 I couldn’t help but reflect on a project I had the privilege of heading up years ago when I was a Head Start director in Kentucky.  The project was called “Hugs are Needed for the Development of Young and Old” (HANDY-O).  In this program we helped pair young children with senior citizens and build friendships that included loving, gentle touch.  HANDY-O was one of the most rewarding programs I have had the pleasure to witness.

 For the elderly population, fear of frailty and lack of loving care can often lead to a “caring touch deficit”, when most of the touches in their lives are medical in nature.  Having the opportunity to hug, hold hands, and interact in playful and loving ways with young children benefited both the old and the young alike.  What a message those tiny hands placed in the hands of an aging senior conveyed – “you are special, and I love being with you.” 

What wonderful ways ALL of us can communicate our teaching practices and caring through hands and touch.

In the DECI resources, we promote protective factors related to resilience, namely:  Attachment/Relationships, Initiative, and Self-Control/Self-Regulation.

Thinking further about how our hands help support these 

factors related to building resilience, I thought about:

Attachment/Relationships:  Our hands comfort, cuddle, caress...

Initiative: Our hands guide, lift up, celebrate...

Our hands soothe, calm, redirect...

The next time your hands are filling out DECAs, or writing plans to help children, remember all the wonderful things your hands do to build resilience in children every day.  And, just as we did in the HANDY-O program, remember those important individuals who have grown into amazing senior citizens, and the importance of loving touch in their lives as well.

 Linda K. Likins, National Director
Devereux Early Childhood Initiative


Reference: Compassionate roots begin with babies, by Janet Gonzalez-Mena.  Article in Exchange May/June 2010.  Available at:

“Hands constitute the infant’s first connection to the world.  Hands pick the infant up, lay him down, wash, dress, and even feed him.  What a different picture of the outside world an infant has when quiet, patient, careful, yet secure hands take care of him.  How different the world must seem when these hands are impatient, rough, hasty, unquiet and nervous.”

~ Emmi Pikler 















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