Like most five-year-olds Keira Scanlon is a little shy around strangers.
She keeps her right hand in her mouth as she nods responses but her left hand, her “little hand,” remains free.
Keira was born with symbrachdactyly, a rare congenital hand difference resulting in short fingers which have little or no bone.
“If you ask her she is likely to tell you a crocodile ate her fingers,” says mum, Natalie Scanlon smiling. “She came up with that, I’ve had parents [from pre-school] come up to me and ask about her little hand because Keira has told their children [that story].”
To raise awareness about Keira and other children with “hand differences” Winmalee Community Pre-school — which she attends three times a week — has planned a week-long obstathon [an obstacle race raising money for charity] starting on Monday, August 26.
All money raised will go to the non-profit organisation, The Aussie Hands Foundation [www.aussiehands.org] which supports and researches hand differences.
Keira’s little left hand hasn’t held her back in any way. She’s learnt to climb trees and monkey bars, count with both fingers, water-ski, even play the piano.
“When Keira was first born we were filled with so many questions: how would she function in everyday life, how would she cope at school? As the months and years went on, our amazing girl showed us that she could do everything the other children could do,” Mrs Scanlon said.
“She’s right handed but she does everything with both hands. She’s just developed her own way of doing it, she rocks her hands [to play piano] ... she can do anything the other children do, she has just found her own unique way — her hand difference does not define her, but it is a very special part of her,” Mrs Scanlon said.
The Scanlons now post Keira’s successes on The Aussie Hands Facebook page to help other parents “going through that really difficult stage in the beginning.”
Mrs Scanlon says Keira “goes through stages where she does feel very self conscious about her hand [but] we find once we go along to one of the Aussie Hands picnics her confidence goes through the roof ... knowing she’s not the only one and seeing all the other children of different ages doing things that everyone else is doing.”
Pre-school director Michele Jennings said when Keira first came to the Winmalee Community Pre-School two years ago “she was quite shy but it wasn’t very long before she showed us that she was more than capable — always looking for a challenge, meeting them full on”.
Mrs Jennings said children were excited about the coming event which will see them rotate through five obstacles — including an agility ladder, beanbag toss, balance board walking and more —in the school grounds, all while raising money for a worthy cause.
Dad, Daniel Scanlon, hopes raising awareness will help prepare Keira for next year at “big school”.
“We are so lucky to be a part of a loving, caring and supportive pre-school,” Mr Scanlon said.
“It was important to us to raise awareness of Keira’s hand difference in the community before she sets off to big school, hopefully it will help make her journey a little easier.”
To sponsor the students in the obstathon contact the family at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org or the pre-school on 47541737.