Former highjump champ turns her talents to stop kids thumb sucking

Former highjump champ Tracey McNair who has written a book on thumb sucking
Former highjump champ Tracey McNair who has written a book on thumb sucking

Thumb or finger sucking may seem like a harmless childhood habit – but it can have serious physical, emotional and educational consequences.

Former Luton Sixth Form College pupil Tracey McNair – now based in Jamaica – has written a book on the subject.

It’s called Suck Finger Pickney* and is a must read for any child with the habit. But it’s also an invaluable aid for parents, teachers and other medical professionals.

Tracey, 42 – a former British junior international high jumper – trained as a dental hygienist with the Royal Air Force and qualified as an orofacial myologist, a discipline involving muscle disorders of the face, mouth, lips and jaw.

She said: “There’s very little literature out there on this topic and many parents are simply unaware of the detrimental problems that can arise.

“I was also inspired to write the book by all the little ‘suckers’ I’ve helped kick the habit. And I was motivated by the knowledge that it would educate youngsters worldwide.”

She added: “It’s in story book form about two children bonded in friendship who discover that thumb sucking is not cool.”

In extreme cases it can affect posture, breathing and facial and dental growth as well as development. Other problems include speech defects and digestive disorders.

Tracey enjoyed writing the book so much, there are two more in the pipeline.

She said: “One is about Tony the Tongue and Theo the Thumb. They get into a bit of an argument about who has the best interests of little Emily at heart.

“It covers all the detrimental aspects of the sucking habit again but from a different perspective – the tongue and thumb are the star characters.”
She would like to see the books being translated into other languages and also made into animated versions for educational tools in schools.

Luton born and bred Tracey was offered a job in Kingston after she left the RAF.

She met her Jamaican businessman husband Richard there and the couple have two children, Hayley, 11, and nine-year-old Cole.

Tracey’s parents still live in Luton and she visits as often as she can.

The talented youngster was a member of Luton United and Essex Ladies Athletics Clubs and attained Great Britain junior international status. Her personal best was 1m 83 cm (6ft).

She said: “I’ve got great memories of playing marbles on the drain covers at Leagrave Juniors as well as breaking my first high jump record in the sandpit there.

“I also have fond memories of Mr Callum. We were all totally petrified of him until we realised he was actually a pretty cool teacher.

“I also remember maths with Miss Arthurs at Challney High and how often I was ‘twit of the week’ after her rapid-fire mental arithmetic questions.”

The tennis-mad mother-of-two moved to Jamaica on a one-year contract as an adventurous 23-year-old.

She recalled: “I figured if I didn’t like it, I could come back.

“But there was no way I was going to be sitting in my rocking chair late in life regretting the fact I never took up the opportunity to live and work in another country.

“Twenty years later I’m still here. Jamaica’s a very interesting place, not without its problems, but we boast beautiful mountains, beaches and rivers. But there’s never a dull moment.”

> Suck Finger Pickney by Tracey McNair is published by LMH Publishing Limited. It will be available in the UK next year.

* Pickney is a Creole word meaning child or children.