The surprise of my Angel learning how to snap her fingers

When fine motor skills are impaired, this finger action is an achievement

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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I’m not shocked when my 13-year-old Angel, Juliana, masters a skill we’ve worked on for a while. That’s because I know she learns best through repetition.

But a few weeks ago, Juliana started snapping her fingers out of the blue. Her snaps aren’t hard and polished, but there’s no mistaking what they are. They might be soft and easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, but a snap is a new skill, and discovering it was a sweet surprise.

After coming home from running errands, I pulled into the garage as my 11-year-old daughter, Jessa, immediately ran to the car.

“Guess what Juliana did?” she asked excitedly.

“Hmmm, not sure,” I replied.

“She snapped her fingers,” Jessa said.

“What?” I asked, stunned.

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I quickly gathered my things and ran into the house. Juliana was sitting at the table having a snack.

“Hey, Jules,” I said. “Can you snap your fingers for Mommy?”

Right away she did it, then chuckled like she was in on a big secret. We kept asking her to snap on demand, amused by this new accomplishment. Jessa asked if I’d taught her how, and I asked Jessa the same. I told her I was sure Juliana had been working on it at school.

Why it’s an important achievement

Juliana’s snapping is a big deal because fine motor skills don’t come easily for those with Angelman syndrome. Those intricate tasks that require fingers to grasp or pinch are taking years for her to master.

For example, Juliana uses her iPad quite well. But sometimes I still have to help her isolate her pointer finger to choose certain buttons. Keeping her fingers separated is a lot of work. If she’s not focused, pinching or isolating turns into raking.

However, I’ve noticed that when she really wants something, say her jelly beans, she will pinch her fingers to get them. Jelly beans are one of her favorite sweets, so of course she’ll work harder to pick them up. Like so many of her emerging skills, pinching is a task we continue to work on.

As it turns out, Juliana’s random snapping wasn’t so random after all. As I’d suspected, she’d been practicing it at school. My husband assured me he told me this. I don’t remember that conversation, but I welcome the labor of her efforts.

Snapping is an unexpected addition to the list of things my Angel can do. The other day when we were listening to music, a song featuring snapping played. That’s when we usually clap. Instead, I said, “Snap, Juliana,” and she gladly obliged.

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


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