Did You know beading can be used as a therapy?
Beading as a part of mental and physical therapy is supported by professionals such as Carol Tubbs (Associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Practicing Occupational therapist of 20 years), Margaret Drake (Joint author of Crafts and Creative Media in Therapy (first, second and third edition), and Jennifer Dodge (licensed pediatric occupational therapist working at Allied instructional services in Virginia). C. Tubbs and M. Drake (2007,pg 64) recommend beading as an excellent therapy for clients with hand injuries or other orthopedic problems requiring work in manipulation skills. Due to Its low resistance beading is furthermore recommended from the same source for clients with weak or fragile joints or low endurance.
What could beading therapy assist with?
Improving In-Hand Manipulations Skills:
This refers to orientating for the best grasp or ideal position using one hand (rotating a bead using the palm/fingertips of one hand to find the whole in the bead), moving objects from palm to fingertips (selecting one bead from several in your palm and moving it to the fingertips with only one hand active) and balanced movement with opposed thumb and finger (threading a needle).
According to Pediatrician J Dodge, ‘This (in hand manipulation skills) depends on mobility and coordinated control at the base joints of your fingers which allow for thumb-finger oppositions in different positions. Children who are lacking these higher-level developmental fine motor skills often appear "fumbly" when trying to use their fingers to maneuver small objects. They may use two hands for a task that we would consider a one-handed task, or they may set down an object to pick it up a different way rather than shifting it within the hand’.
Separating Motoric Function of the Two Sides of the Hand:
Jennifer Dodge (unknown) describes this skill, ‘Refinement of skill (control) with the radial (thumb-index) side of the hand is best achieved when the ulnar (pinky) side of the hand is stabilized. This separation offers the most stability through the hand while allowing free movement of the digits which are working on the fine motor task. A different nerve controls some of the muscles of the pinky and ring fingers from the index, middle, and thumb digits, and with experience we learn to inhibit movements of ring and pinky while the other digits are working’.
Bilateral Integration
Refers to coordination between the right and left sides of the body. According to M. Drake and C. Tubbs (2007, pg 57) occupational therapists have long used beading to assist in development in this area as you need to hold the wire steady with one hand while threading on with another. Pediatrician J Dodge states that someone with difficulty in bilateral integration tasks, ‘will probably have a cluster of difficult areas such as balance, smooth eye tracking, and coordinated use of both hands together, and possibly language processing delays as well’. 
Mental health
“Clients with depression or impaired cognition due to psychotic disorder can follow simple repetitive patterns. The choice in styling, design and theme assists in achieving feelings of control and self determination. Many bead creations can be worn enhancing self-image, body awareness and self esteem. Beadwork also offers lots of opportunities to make gifts for others, which also increases feelings of self worth and societal contribution” M. Drake and C. Tubbs (2007, pg 65). It is also made a point in this book that beads and tools can present a danger to people with particular disorders, so before choosing this form of therapy assess each individual case or seek a professional opinion first.
Who else could bead therapy benefit?
With a wide range of colours, shapes and charms, beading sparks the imagination, allowing them to learn colours and more advanced colour toning later on and a great opportunity to practice manipulation skills. They cannot make a wrong design so it’s a good opportunity for positive reinforcement and self expression. The cost of beading does not have to be overly expensive Elastic (which requires no tool purchase) will set you back approximately $1.20 per meter and come down to 70c per meter when purchased in bulk. Plastic and glass beads likewise can be purchased in bulk for cheaper rates. Beading projects do not have to take a long time so they can keep children entertained for as long as they are willing.
Adolescents with the physical dysfunctions listed above will benefit from bead therapy. Adolescents with fully developed motor skills will still have a good outlet of self expression and helps them play with different styles and fashions. Slightly higher quality beads are recommended in comparison to children’s bead ranges and it may present opportunities for them to learn to deal with a budget and potential become a profitable hobby if the teen excels in their technique.
For bead therapy classes or more information please send me an email at info@hannahwilsonjewellery.com
Tubbs, C. and Drake, M. (2007) ‘ Crafts and creative media, Third Edition’ Slack incorporated
Dodge, J, (unknown) “OT recourses website: Fine motor activities”, online (updated unknown) available at: http://schoolot.com/fine%20motor%20activities.html (Accessed 2nd September 2011)