The Octaband® or Parachute?
When people see the Octaband® in use, they frequently ask about the similarities and differences to the parachute. In some ways, I was motivated to create the Octaband® because the parachute wasn't useful for me in working with the elderly, especially those with moderate to severe dementia. For one thing, the parachute requires a large space, and I rarely had a space large enough for the larger one. Secondly, there are very limited ways that one can move with the parachute if one is sitting down. One can move it up and down, or side to side. One can bounce a ball on it. Third, in using the parachute all of the movement requires that people move together, which is not always possible with people with severe dementia because they lack the motivation to do things to please others. It seems their energy needs to be internally focused, so their motivation needs to come from an internal source. Similarly, children who are developmentally not yet ready to relate to others benefit from moving individually, yet still feel a sense of belonging as a member of the group on some level.
So, here is how the Octaband® is different. The Octaband®, like an octopus, is very flexible. It takes up as much space or as little as one has. It can expand by stretching it, and the "legs" can be wrapped several times around the hand to take up less space and also to offer greater resistance. The Octaband® allows for a greater range of physical movement, as 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 further limits in all directions. One benefit to this is that if one person has a limitation, i.e., needs to keep the arm/elbow close to the body, but the person next to her wants to reach 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. Addressing the 3rd difference, the Octaband® has a hem at the end of each leg, so that the leader can slip the person's hand into the hem. So if the person lacks the cognitive understanding of what is expected of them 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 bright colors which elders love, 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. 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.
That is partially why I created the Octaband®, and some of the differences between the Octaband® and the parachute. On the other hand, the parachute is better for bouncing a ball on. One can bounce a beanbag on the Octaband®, but it is less useful for "games," more useful for enhancing flexibility, strength and vitality through movement. Another difference is that because of the legs, it is vital to present the Octaband® in a very structured way with children to ensure safety. Children tend to love to get under the parachute and the Octaband® - the parachute provides more space, the Octaband® less space, but at the same time, can be less scary, because they can see one another through the legs.