Differentiating the Uses and Benefits of the Octaband® vs. the Parachute
When people see the Octaband® in use, they frequently ask about the similarities and differences to the parachute. In fact, I was motivated to create the Octaband® in part because the parachute wasn’t useful when I was working with older adults, especially those with moderate to severe dementia.
Limitations of the Parachute
- The parachute requires a large space, and many people lack a space sufficient to accommodate the parachute’s diameter.
- There are very limited ways that one can use the parachute if one is sitting down. One can move it up and down, or side to side. One can bounce things on top.
- Importantly, using the parachute requires that people move together cooperatively which not all people are ready to do. Older adults with significant dementia and children on the autism spectrum may be developmentally unprepared to relate to others and yet still very much need to feel they belong to a group on some level.
Benefits of the Octaband® over the Parachute
- The Octaband®, like an octopus, is very flexible. It takes up as much or as little space as one has. It can expand by stretching it, and the “legs” can be wrapped several times around the wrist to take up less space and also to offer greater resistance.
- The Octaband® allows for a greater range of physical movement, including rotation of the spine. Also, one can move to the limits of one’s physical range, regardless of what others are doing. Therefore, a person can reach out to his furthest limits in all directions. An added benefit is that if one person has a limitation, e.g., needs to keep the arm/elbow close to the body, but the person beside stretches way out, the person who needs to keep the arm close is able to do so, without being pulled. Thus, the Octaband® promotes greater physical range of motion and flexibility, as well as safety in that way.
- The 3rd and probably the most important difference may be difficult for readers of this article to understand. People with limited or no verbal language do not connect through words. They can physically feel their connections to others and how they affect one another through the stretchy material via their tactile and kinesthetic senses.
- The Octaband® has a hem at the end of each leg, so that the leader can slip the person’s hand through the hem. So, if the person lacks the cognitive understanding of what is expected or physically can’t hold on, the hem allows them to hold on and be part of the happening. (The hem can also be slipped over the feet.)
- Because of the individual legs, people can do their own thing and still be a part of the group. Because of the bright colors, the soft, yummy material which feels good to touch, and the stretchiness of the fabric, as well as the unifying properties, everyone WANTS to join in even if they don’t want to get too close to other people.
- Additionally, the center of the Octaband® is a simple and satisfying circle, which promotes a calming point of focus, as different from the pie-shaped angles and colors in the center of the parachute which can be over-stimulating.
- The Octaband® is less bulky, so it’s easier to transport, whether on a cart or in a plane.
- The Octaband® has yet another advantage, which is the imagery that it evokes, stimulating the imagination and along with it many stories. The Octaband® has been likened to an octopus, the sun, a spider, and a jellyfish.
On the one hand, the parachute may be easier for keeping a ball on because of its larger surface; on the other, bouncing a beanbag on the Octaband® is more challenging because it demands more focused attention. The Octaband® is better for enhancing flexibility, overall strength and vitality through movement.
To ensure safety, it is vital to present the Octaband® in a very structured way with children and to keep them from getting tangled in its legs. Children love to get under the center of the parachute and the Octaband® – the parachute provides more space, the Octaband® less space. For younger children, this can make the Octaband® less scary, as they can see one another through the legs.
The Octaband® is flexible in how much space is required, can be used in many more ways than the parachute, allows for much greater body movement and physical range, and works for people initially unready to engage in unison group movement.