Everybody could use a good tool. No matter what kind of physical task you’re attempting to accomplish. Sometimes all that is required might be your hands. For most people who are typically developed, a solid set of hands works well. But, when the hands are impacted by a disability, they might need assistance. For me, the challenge often comes down to fine motor skills. One of the most evident places this difficulty has been found is with buttons. Most specifically the buttons on a shirt. The button tool was found a couple years ago. When I had started a job, requiring me to wear a tie each day. We tried many options to alleviate my challenge with the top button on the shirt. We played around with the idea of leaving it open. Hoping the knot in my tie would be sufficient to pinch the collar shut. Another option was replacing the top button with Velcro. Feeling like the button could be removed from the equation. Clasping the Velcro together would be a much more viable option. We even looked into a magnet to close the shirt. But, nothing worked to a comfortable satisfaction. So, the research continued to find the tool that would make life easier. We had no idea something like the button hook existed.
Cerebral palsy has another impact on life. An aspect always causing frustrations. There was often a way around battling with buttons. I often simply didn’t wear a button up shirt. Either that or I got help with the buttons. On the rare occasions my hands felt particularly capable. One of my button up shirts would come out of the closet. On those mornings, I was required to show extra patience. If the shirt did not need to be buttoned all the way to the top. Meaning a tie would not be required on that day, I could make the attempt with myself. Each button would take extraordinary calm to be executed. During the moments, I can hear my brain instructing the fingers. Getting the opening as wide as could be accomplished using my left thumb. Pushing the button against the thumb in the opening. Then, somehow sliding the button through the hole in my shirt. Often my hands would slightly spasm during the process, forcing me to begin again. Having to work this diligently on each specific button was exhausting. And even though it felt good to dress nicely, the buttons often didn’t seem worth the stress. I would opt for a tee-shirt or polo instead. At least the polo shirt only required one button to battle. My life had been spent avoiding these shirts unless I felt ready for the contest. When I started a job that required them, the tool had to be found. The job might not have stuck without the button hook.
I was still apprehensive when the tool arrived. The first version didn’t look like the one I have today. We found the button hook online and figured to give it a chance. There was an experiment going on to find something that worked. When it arrived, the first noticeable thing was its small handle. It appeared challenging to operate with troubled hands. But, we were trying new things, so if this didn’t work, we would move on to the next. The plastic loop went through the button hole with ease. The first step was accomplished seamlessly. The next step would be getting the button securely inside the loop. Allowing the button to be pulled past through the hole and secured. Getting the button inside the loop was challenging. The one at the top of the shirt can be tough to manage because of the collar and angle. So, it took me practicing to find a way of getting the button secured inside the loop. I played around with trying it one handed, then found a way to help the process with my off hand, it took some trial and error. But, once I got the hang of using the button hook, life improved greatly. I literally don’t leave home without this tool. It allows me to button up any shirt. Though I have left the job requiring a tie, I still constantly use the button hook. I no longer feel compelled to avoid clothing I want to wear. The tool provides freedom other people have, probably without paying it much mind. It also improves self-esteem, being able to wear whatever feels good. I’m thankful the job drove me to a tool I may have never found.
Following the success of utilizing my first button hook tool. I set out to find another one with a larger handle. Something easier to grasp that would provide more ease of use. The second button hook I found had a handle three times the original. It was easy to hold onto without thinking. Holding it balanced while clutching the button also felt better. This particular button hook was barrowed by a friend to use for buttoning a wedding dress. The tool was so helpful, I never saw it again. Guess that tells ya it’s useful even without a disability. The one pictured is my third version of the tool. With the handle size, somewhere between the first and second installment. My first was given away to Bernard for his son to use, who also has CP. I gladly found a new one for myself. As the tool has helped him with buttons beyond his shirt. Even those on his jeans are fastened using the tool. Allowing him to experience more flexibility than I experienced. We have to stick together in helping one another. Not many people experience the impact of not being able to fasten clothing. When the things we come down to our physical ability. It can cause some frustrating darkness in life. I’m thankful for some tools to help us feel more confident.