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Postcard March 1: The Handshake

Florian's picture

It's a little late, but better that then never, right? This is a photo-collage made with a photo I took at my placement. The program participant's face has been obscured by a sticker to protect his privacy. My 'lucky find' for this past week was a practice I noticed at my placement. As soon as I entered the studio space, all the participants crowded around me, wanting to introduce themselves and shake my hand. Later, I found out that shaking hands and introducing yourself was taught to the program participants for two reasons, both to instil a new, good habit and to break a less constructive one. Some of the developmentally disabled people at the center do not fully understand the difference between socially unacceptable ways to touch a newcomer (like hugging) and socially acceptable ways of touching, like shaking hands, and in these cases the handshake is a replacement for another habit, which I thought was a very good move, because it acknowledges the need for human contact that the less acceptable habit stems from, and gives a more constructive outlet for that instead of just saying "no, don't do that". It also is a professional skill, as the center treats the program participants as the professional artists that they are, and many of them have their work exhibited in gallery shows, and introducing oneself and shaking hands is a part of what professional artists do at gallery openings. This dual purpose is something I feel is important in educational contexts. I don't think it's constructive to just say "don't do that", and in this case not only are they not saying "don't do that", they're saying "do this instead, this is something that will help you".