Undo Racism Every Day: Exclusive Interview with Children’s Author Anastasia Higginbotham

dicussion

 

ANASTASIA HIGGINBOTHAM has written a courageous children’s book that seeks to dismantle institutionalized racism and white supremacy, one conversation and action at a time. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness  challenges adults to face their own discomfort and biases in order to validate the truths that children intuit. In this exclusive interview, Anastasia discusses her process of expanding her world view and becoming a disruptor of the very best kind.

Deb: “What prompted you to write this important book?”

My answer is a who and a what. Who inspired me were Black women: Noleca Anderson Radway, Brooklyn Free School Executive Director; Reverend angel Kyodo williams, Zen priest and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation; and Anyanwu Uwa, The Human Root Co-Founder and Executive Director. Noleca made me see white power in action and in myself; Rev. Angel dared me to connect with my deepest conditioning into whiteness and grow from a place of heartbreak; Anyanwu insisted I view myself as worthy. What inspired me is everything that the Black Lives Matter movement shows us about state-sanctioned murders of Black women, men, trans people and kids by police, plus no accountability for those crimes and new ones committed against the BLM activists themselves.

Deb: “What have you learned about yourself in the process?”

Making this book has removed veil after veil (it’s still happening) of illusions I had about my own uselessness in the fight for racial justice. I am beginning to develop a healthy racial identity for the first time ever. Rather than feel disgusted by my whiteness – and suspicious of everyone else’s – I can expand my worldview, correct the smearing and distortion caused by a whiteness mindset (the one that lies to us all about white superiority), and see, love, embrace, and engage with people from a more healed place. Also, it’s like wearing x-ray-night-vision spy goggles—I see white supremacy now in all its hiding places. I’m not scared to shine a light on it and root it out of everywhere, including out of me.

Deb: “What are the most challenging aspects (for you personally) of engaging in conversations about white supremacy with white people?”

When the white person I am talking with needs proof that white supremacy is real and something they should care about. I don’t understand the hurdle I’m trying to help them see or get over, and I get confused. I wonder if they need me to convince them that this is an issue worth caring about? Is their instinct toward caring that broken and buried inside of them? When that seems to be the case, I despair.

It’s also hard when I want to help someone understand that white supremacy is a system embedded into everything—government policies, banking, housing, courts, schools, elections, healthcare, where the city dump is located, etc. And they want to defend their personal stake in being a good person, a.k.a. not a racist. This is not the point or the goal. There are evil systems at work here. Let’s break them. To me it’s as simple as: “Hulk smash!”

 Deb: “How about with people of color?”

I sometimes dissociate when I am talking about race and whiteness with people who are seen as Black—people who are experiencing anti-Blackness from a white dominant culture all day long. I feel myself floating beside myself criticizing every word I say, telling me how ignorant I sound, predicting that I will say something hurtful and outrageous. But I have learned to coach myself back into my body and just be humbly there, reading the person’s facial expressions and body language, letting there be lots of room and as much safety as I can help to create so we can both be fully present, honest, and open.

Deb: “And on the other side of the coin, what have been some of the unexpected joys of these conversations?”

Love. So much love and connection. With everybody. The chasms created by racism and fear and alienation disappear, then and there, and common ground appears on that very spot where we stand. Feels like something starts to grow between us and beneath us instantly.

Deb: “In her book, White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo says, “The body of research demonstrates that white children develop a sense of white superiority as early as preschool.” How can we start the conversation with young children before they initiate it?”

I don’t have any studies to back this up but I make a point to associate the colors black and brown with immense power, beauty, and radiance, for starters. Point out the beauty of a brown tree trunk, rich black dirt for growing all the things that keep us alive. Black mountains, vast brown deserts, all the colors of chocolate, and other delicious black and brown foods. And of course, the beautiful people who enjoy an abundance of melanin in their skin. I give blackness all the credit for the gorgeous serenity and mystery and thrill of nighttime. When reading children’s books where evil is represented by the colors black, I skip it. I don’t use the word black to describe something or someone scary, evil, or ugly (even if it’s only describing the bad guy’s clothing or where they live). I never associate the words white or light with innocence or goodness. Anti-blackness is everywhere in our language and so is this idea that we should go to the light and avoid the dark. The entire Star Wars franchise is based on this, so good luck navigating that mess. I don’t talk about having a dark sense of humor or a black mood. I find other words. They exist.

Deb: “What else do you want readers to know about you and your process of writing the book and dismantling white supremacy?”

White people can be each other’s allies in this work of disrupting white supremacy—that’s where our ally-ship is most needed and effective. You don’t have to be an author or a leader in a movement. Be present to the other white children and adults in your life, in your family. Read and study about whiteness so you can see where it tricked you and distanced you from your own instincts to connect and relate to whole groups of people who are targeted by white supremacy. Learn to see the systems of whiteness at work and tackle that system (instead of other people or yourself) in meaningful ways every day, every day, every day. Remember: “Hulk smash!”

 

Photo Credits: Erin Bogle, Webber Park Library, Minneapolis, MN

 

download

Available now at: https://www.dottirpress.com/not-my-idea/

Playroom Design Made Easy

 

IMG_1577

Auckland, New Zealand

In my career as a child life specialist and educator, I have seen many hospital playrooms throughout the country and across the globe. In my mind’s eye, I have an idea of what makes a playroom wonderful, combining the best parts of every playroom I have ever seen. My imaginary perfect playroom is a large open space, filled with natural light, a warm, cozy atmosphere, comfy furniture, child-sized sinks and work areas, and a working kitchen. The toys are within reach so that all children can

imgres-6

Mural in Mexico City

CIMG1039

Playspace in Mexico City

play freely. There is a well stocked medical play corner. There are safe spaces for infants to have tummy time and room to crawl. There are climbing bolsters for toddlers and a wheelchair accessible playhouse for preschoolers and young school-aged children. There are riding toys and sensory play tables. Ping pong and pool tables are there for teens and caregivers to gather around.

IMG_4159

Czech Republic

The best part about this imaginary playroom is that it is staffed with child life specialists, or hospital play specialists, who have been trained in play theory and play techniques, including the child-centered approach and the Floortime approach. They have also undergone training in racial literacy, and speak many languages. There is cleaning personnel on staff who disinfect toys and surfaces as needed. The playroom has daily programming that includes expressive art. medical art, and medical play. Outdoor playspace is available for children and families facing lengthy hospitalizations.

IMG_4404

Japan

In order to make my fantasy one step closer to reality, I designed the Vilas Playroom Assessment Rubric VIPAR to guide hospital staff in creating new play spaces or revamping existing ones. I recently updated it with the help of Meagan Roloff from the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). It is a fillable pdf document that you can download and use to assess your current playspace, or give you ideas for how to design new space. Many hospitals have funding from big corporations to build dramatic and eye-popping play spaces in hospitals. But it isn’t always about the glitz. Sometimes it is the simplest of things, like the sensory room filled with homemade sensory toys in Japan, the custom designed foot high cushioned wall to protect an infant/toddler area from exuberant older kids in New Zealand, or a set of wooden blocks for children to create their own miniature worlds. A doll bed and medical supplies to encourage medical play in Iceland. A wooden playhouse whose door can accommodate a wheelchair and IV pole in New York City. And often, it is about the policies, programming, and training of the staff that make the space a truly child-centered place of healing.

Think outside the box and see where your imagination takes you. And please, drop me a line to let me know how it turns out — I would love to see more photos from around the world!

 

 

IMG_2202

Bethlehem

 

CIMG0198CIMG0191

Iceland

 

 

Free Talk: Medical Play Therapy & Child Life

Bank Street College Library

Presents…

Library Salon #15

Friday, March 9, 2018

5:30 to 7:30 pm

A panel discussion with child life practitioners
and alumni contributors to:

Moderated by: Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale, MA, CCLS, has over 25 years of experience in the field of Child Life, including directing several child life programs in the tri-state area. She has served as the director of the Child Life Masters Program at Bank Street College since 2004. She has been a member of the Association of Child Life Professionals, served as the Co-chair of Graduate Accreditation Task Force and member(2012-2014),  served as Director on the Board (2015-2017) and has been a member of the Education and Training Committee for many years.

Panelists:

Lawrence C. Rubin, PhD, the editor of the Handbook of Medical Play Therapy and Child Life, is a professor of counselor education at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida, and an online lecturer at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Rubin is a practicing psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, where he specializes with children, teens, and their families.
Jon Luongo, MS, CCLS, is a Bank Street graduate, past adjunct instructor, a delegate with 1199 Healthcare Workers’ Union, and a child life specialist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. He began his career in healthcare as a performer in the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit in 1997.
Suzanna Paisley, MS, CCLS, is a Bank Street graduate, a parent of two young children, and a child life specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She has lectured on trauma processing with children of all ages at national child life conferences.
Deborah Vilas, MS, CCLS, LMSW, is a Bank Street graduate, a current faculty member, a writer and a public speaker. She has taught play techniques to child life students, hospital play specialists, nursing students, social workers and psychologists in 6 countries around the world.

Patty Weiner, MS, is a mother and grandmother whose career spans over 35 years as a child life specialist and educator. She is the founding director of Bank Street’s Child Life Program and is an educational consultant for The Making Headway Foundation in NYC.

Library Salons are a series of informal lectures, panels, and group discussions
held after hours on Friday evenings.Refreshments Provided#BankStreetLibrarySalon

Copyright © 2018 Bank Street College of Education, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences

51-1oItVeWL._AC_US218_

 

Click Here and Scroll down to Register and for access to live stream link

Frightened Teens: Supporting Your Adolescent in Scary Times

Abused teen with stop hand jesture

Another Shooting.

It takes all of our strength as grown-ups to not give in to despair, anxiety, and fear in the face of yet another young person accessing an assault rifle and murdering his peers. School is supposed to be a safe place for all children — teens included.

As the political debates about gun control make our brains feel like exploding, we have to remember to reach out to the adolescents in our care. If it is that tough for us to wrap our heads around, how much harder is it for teens? We must be proactive in engaging teens in conversation every day, about life, about what is important to them, and about the awful things that happen in the world. When something truly terrible happens, it is even more important to take the time to listen, witness, and validate their struggles. And this often means admitting that we don’t have the answers.

Teens have the capacity to reason, to wrestle with abstract concepts, and to articulate their feelings. But their brains are still developing, as is their self-concept, their ideas about who they are in the world. A random act of extreme violence will shake their new identities and burgeoning belief systems to the core, and they need calm, kind adults to prop them up as they try to make sense of their new reality. They need to know what to expect as much as possible, who they can count on. We know it isn’t always easy, so here are a few tips from the experts.

Tips For talking with Teens

What Mental Health Experts say to Their Kids

Fear and trauma responses can sometimes look like anger and disconnect. The teen who is suffering the most, without the ability to articulate and share their feelings, may be the one who needs your best efforts. Often teens find it easier to talk about tough topics when they are involved in an activity. Consider a cooking project, or gathering some art supplies, maybe magazines for collage. Or how about the ingredients to make a mini volcano? As you create something together, you can talk about how the shooter was a volcano waiting to blow, and how many feelings are often seething underneath. The teen can write down questions they have about life or list things that make them feel like blowing their top, and these items can be folded and put into the volcano before you set off the eruption together.

Volcano!

Introduction

This technique helps release anger through a structured activity providing an opportunity to discuss anger and to problem solve. It works well individually and in groups with preschoolers to teens.

Materials

  • Small paper cup or medicine cup (Dixie brand bathroom cups work great)
  • Plastic cereal bowl
  • One container of Play-Dough (The kind that comes in a 4-pack) or homemade.
  • White vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Baking soda
  • Red and yellow food coloring
  • Teaspoon

Activity

  • Place a small paper cup upright on top of an upside-down plastic bowl. Secure it with a few pieces of tape.  Wrap it in play dough to make a volcano, leaving the mouth of the cup open.  Pour ¼ cup white vinegar, two squirts of dishwashing liquid, and several drops of food coloring into the “mouth” of the volcano.
  • If the child wishes, they can write down or dictate things that upset them (make them scared or angry or mad) on tiny pieces of paper and place them in the volcano.
  • Spoon in a heaping teaspoon of baking soda and watch the eruption!
  • For instant replays, alternate adding a little more baking soda and vinegar. A group can make a larger volcano using a large salad bowl and more playdough. Miniature people, animals, and props can be added to add aspects of dramatic play.

 

 

 

 

 

Walli Kids: Spotlight & Giveaway

ed-travel-6x5-trspt_1_orig

Many parents arrive in hospitals for unexpected visits, sick or injured child in tow. In emergency situations, they probably don’t have a child’s favorite toy or game with them,  and they may find themselves waiting long hours without a way to distract or occupy their unhappy child. Even during expected hospitalizations, there are times when a child has to visit and wait in areas of the hospital, for tests and procedures, where they have nothing but institutional walls to greet them. Child Life Specialists know the value of great distraction tools to soothe anxiety during long waiting periods and painful procedures.

With this in mind, I would like to welcome guest blogger Patricia Montouchet, the founder of  Walli-Kids. She has a great product for parents, child life specialists, hospitals, and doctors’ offices. 

05D14CE1-D5B8-4A1C-8198-C78BC186A792.jpeg

Today I am going to tell you about Walli-Kids, the company I created a few years ago.

You might wonder what started Wallikids ?

Difficult to pinpoint exactly how the idea and the vision fell into place, but …

Many years ago, as every mother, I recall being awfully stressed when my son crashed his bicycle, hard enough to break open his helmet. We had to rush to the emergency room and… I will skip all the details. Needless to say, we had to wait long hours on that Saturday afternoon…

What to do? How to distract Lucas? What could I do to ease his pain, anxiety and hide the waiting.

Nothing, I had nothing… In our hurry, I forgot to take his books, games or even his favorite stuffed animal friend as time was of the essence. There was no picture on the walls to help distract him, no child books.  Without any doubt, this was a difficult and striking experience for me.

When my children left for college, I decided it was time to do something I would really enjoy. My daughter Margot is very creative and together, we started  drawing Ralph the Giraffe© and  Mitch the Fish© which would, after a few years, be part of our Animal Buddies collection.                              

 

Coleman the Pelican© was created after a family vacation at the beach.

ed-colemean-cmyk-6x5

Myrtle the Turtle© after reading about the Great Coral Reef and

EDd  MYRTLE 36X30                                                                                                                     

           ED ABIGAIL 36x30 Abigail the Snail© to remember our  many summer vacations in our native French Alps.

Walli-Kids Animal buddies Collection is for younger kids that don’t know how to read: they have to look for numbers and pictures, soon they will start having fun. Under an adult supervision, all the many details can be highlighted such as a frog group or a crab family… These colorful designs are a conversation starter for the medical staff as it is easy to start a storytelling or ask to find other hidden animals. These posters are perfect for kids to learn new words and discover new places

At that point, we had something for younger kids but nothing for the ones who could read, so our Puzzle-Jumbles collection was created…

ED CATERPILLAR 5x4

This was countless hours of assembling arrays of diverse and colorful objects. Enough to keep the children entertained for a while and well-hidden to make their focus last longer…

Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun figuring out what would go into each activity-poster and then counting and re-counting each object to make sure that it was all there. The hardest Puzzle-Jumble activity-poster you might wonder? Without any doubt Animal XL© and #8 XL©

 

#8 XL 5X4

We are still working on our 3rd collections: Same difference. I will keep you posted soon…

Now, the best part is that I can write about how excited I am to share with you our newest product: Acry-Walli. Our designs are reverse printed on a rigid 1/8  inch thick sheet of clear acrylic with a white vinyl backing. The end product displays vivid colors and is very durable. It is very easy to clean with any antibacterial solution, it will not be damaging to the ink as it is reverse printed. These activity-posters can be screwed on to the walls , hardware and color snap-caps are provided to hide the screws. All our designs have rounded corners to avoid catching little fingers.

gva_1

You might ask where is the best place to put the Acry-Walli? On walls, in waiting rooms, consulting and treatment rooms. Note that since we design and manufacture every product here in Atlanta, we are able to offer any size, or even incorporate our customers’ mascot or logo in the design.

There is another product that  I should mention as it has become Child Life Specialists’ best friend: our Walli-Kids lap-posters printed on a high quality styrene. All of our designs are available in this 12”x10” hand held size. We came up with this smaller dimension to make it portable and help young patients focus on something colorful and attention grabbing during medical procedures such as treatments, vaccinations… I must mention that many hospitals use them in their waiting room to help with the waiting.

As you read my article to the end, you deserve “a little something”, so if you enter your contact information on our website, Facebook or Twitter, your name will be entered in our drawing for 2 free lap-posters, one from each of our collections.

Should you have any questions on our products, do not hesitate to email me at patricia@wallikids.com.

Get Well Maps: Road to Recovery

ChildInspired-2

Please welcome our guest blogger, Christina Connors, who I interviewed after she connected with me on Linked In and sent me samples of her incredible Get Well Maps.

What inspired you to create these maps? My son’s medical experience in 2014, and my desire to help other children and families facing medical challenges, inspired me to create Get Well Maps. Andrew was 5 years old when he was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia and H1N1 flu, and his condition quickly became life threatening. He was air lifted to our closest pediatric hospital (~2 hours away) and was transferred to the PICU secondary to respiratory failure. I felt completely helpless to care for him. There were so many uncertainties. My “Mama Bear” impulses were raging, and yet my background as an Occupational Therapist was underpinning every effort I made to advocate for my child.

IMG_0635

I felt compelled to have a visual that would depict his “Road Home”, because despite the uncertainty of prognosis, timeline or discharge plan, we needed to SEE our goal of getting home in the midst of adversity. I asked my childhood friend to make a map that had a road, photo of our home and matchbox car to move along as his condition progressed (My son has always loved anything with wheels). She was eager to do anything to help, but found it strange that my request of her was a “craft project” (Child Life Specialists & OTs get it). She graciously obliged, anyways. What began as a desperate mother’s attempt to provide a tool to help her child, began to draw interest from his medical team, and sparked communication that connected us throughout his care (“Is that your house?”, “Do you like to play outside?”, “Buddy, you’ve already rounded that bend”…). It was months after our experience, and after becoming involved in our pediatric hospital’s Family Advisory Committee, that another parent encouraged me to develop this idea in a way that would help other children and families throughout their medical experiences.

IMG_0618

What was the process like from your idea to creating the product and your company? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared! I was exposing a time in our family’s life that held much vulnerability. But I was also excited about the possibility of having a creative outlet that helped me process our experience in a way that helped others. My faith was strengthened by our experience, and I felt like I was being called into this work. I felt that this was a unique opportunity to combine my experience as a parent and healthcare professional (& my husband is an educator) to make a positive impact in the healthcare experiences of other children and families. I began slowly. Brainstorming, then drafting prototypes, researching materials, production options, searching for the right illustrator, and learning the basics of establishing a business. I use the analogy of a foggy road when I think about the process of transforming an idea into a company, and even now as I continue to navigate and evolve. I can’t always see where I am headed because the road is foggy, but when I have faith enough to move forward, the fog lifts briefly and becomes a little clearer just in front of me, which in turn gives me the confidence to keep going. (Just can’t seem to get away from the road/car analogies!)

Can you tell us a bit about your work as an OT and your experience as a mom? I graduated from the Occupational Therapy program at Towson University in 2002, and have been practicing as an Occupational Therapist for 15 years. I became interested in Occupational Therapy after my Aunt was in a car accident and sustained a C4-C5 spinal cord injury. It was the 1st time my family was truly impacted by disability and I was inspired to learn more about the professionals that were helping her. Since beginning my career as an OT, I have always had an equal love of pediatric and adult rehabilitation. I have experience in hospital, inpatient rehabilitation, home healthcare and school settings. I have always found my work as an OT very rewarding, and am very passionate about working with individuals with neurological disorders and sensory needs. My greatest loves… my hubbie, Mike, and my 2 children are at the center of my world. There was a lot we experienced emotionally as a family during and following my son’s hospitalization that changed my perspective as a mom. I don’t worry as much about small decisions and details, don’t take as much for granted, and really value the importance of finding moments of “calm” in our hectic day-to-day routines. Their love, support, and boundless energy are driving forces behind Child Inspired.

What do you want parents and medical staff to know about children in hospitals? I think many already know, but I think ALL medical professionals need to know that (many, if not most) children and families are not processing auditory information effectively during stressful medical events. Children and families want (and need) medical teams to disclose accurate and honest medical information, but it needs to be delivered with a compassionate, child-centered approach. Don’t be scared of informing children and parents of setbacks or regressions in progress. They know setbacks occur. They just need consistent, jargon-free language that helps them understand what is happening and supports them through the disappointment. Families and medical professionals also need to know that emotional healing will often take much longer than physical healing, and need to be educated on resources that the family can access if emotional or behavioral concerns arise after discharge.

 

What are your hopes for your company? My hope for Child Inspired is that our Get Well Maps will become a model for child-centered discharge planning, and that our tools will also help children and families visualize their progress as they re-integrate back into school and community activities after medical events. In this fast-paced, digital age where much of what our children encounter is instant gratification, many children need support and encouragement as they work towards goals that require time and perseverance. It is my hope that our Maps facilitate positive, encouraging language and communication between children and the adults providing their care.

 

Do you have any tips for how parents and child life specialists might use these maps? I love your profession and the amazing work that you do with children, siblings and families, as well as the work you do to model and advocate for child-centered care among your other medical colleagues. I think that Child Life Specialists can play a pivotal role in daily medical rounding and discharge planning, and that Get Well Maps provide a method for facilitating child-centered communication and visually tracking medical progress. A Get Well Map is fun, and individualized to the child’s interests and goal, therefore, it reduces anxiety by helping you relay and reinforce information discussed in medical rounding (often laden with medical jargon) in a way that is developmentally appropriate and child-centered. Contact us to learn more about how a CCLS is using Get Well Maps with children after bone marrow transplants, and how her unit now has a physician order and pathway to initiate Child Life assessment and intervention (including Get Well Maps) from diagnosis to discharge.
Anything else you want us to know? Thank you for all that you do! As always, I would love to collaborate with you and your teams to develop solutions for your patient populations and healthcare organizations.

IMG_4803

IMG_4802

IMG_4804

Kindness as a De-stressor for the Holiday Season

 

Whether or not you are a Christian, the month of December descends upon many of us all with an overload of stress: pressing consumerism, forced merriness, and social and family expectations that can make us feel less than and despairing in so many ways. We can lose sight of the sense of hope that the season is meant to embody, the acceptance of darkness before the dawn, the preparing and waiting for the light, the igniting of that light within ourselves and others, all in the maelstrom of media messages.

Well, today, I am thankful for this calendar that I found on social media, and I want to share it with all of you, I see it as a template. It might be a wonderful activity for you to do alone, with children, or with family members. If you make your own kindness calendar, you can add to it acts of kindness that hold specific meaning for you and are within your reach to accomplish. You can place a piece of oaktag or cardboard over it and cut out little doors and windows to open each day.

Just contemplating this activity makes me think of kindnesses I have witnessed in the recent and not so recent past.

A fellow teacher had a particularly bad day when a troubled student lost control, trashed the classroom and scratched the teacher’s face. My assistant teacher, Elizabeth, entered her colleague’s classroom during her lunch break to find her fellow teacher crying. Elizabeth quietly went about the room, righting chairs, picking up toys, and straightening up the chaos. Then she went to the nearby market and brought back some chocolate. These gestures spoke so much louder than words of consolation might have.

At a family gathering in the basement of a local Baptist church, where parents and children worked on arts and crafts, a family struggled with finding positive ways to respond to their preschooler. I watched as each parental admonition ratcheted up the child’s resistance and anger. For a few moments, my friend, Edna, joined the child in play, and gave him some gentle, corralling, positive feedback, helping him to self regulate and giving the parents a break.

On the city bus, a loud and hostile argument broke out between two passengers, fueled by both, but with one person definitely being more aggressive. As his voice grew louder and louder, an elderly lady finally stood up, and approached the yeller. “You need to stop,” she said. “It’s not okay to use that kind of language.” Once she spoke up, others did as well, and the situation calmed down.

A nurse responds to my tears of fear facing chemotherapy by putting down her medical implements, drawing her chair up to mine, taking my hands in hers and telling me that God will help me bear whatever I must face.

A yoga teacher guided our class in breathing with intention and awareness yesterday. He said that when we breathe for ourselves, we are breathing for all of our loved ones, and for all humanity. When we feel so overwhelmed that even breathing feels like a colossal task, it does help to know that it is enough, and that breathing can be more than a self sustaining act. Breathing can sustain others. So whether your acts of kindnesses are as simple as breathing, or a single word, a glance, a gesture, it is all within your grasp to ignite the light of loving kindness in yourself and others, one act and one day at a time.

 

 

Child Life in Private Practice: Supporting Parents and Children through Medical Encounters

IMG_3254

Studies show that children who are prepared for medical procedures recover faster with less emotional stress. Even routine procedures such as vaccinations can cause children undue stress and lead to treatment noncompliance and avoidance of medical care. Children require developmentally appropriate information about what they will see, feel, hear, taste and smell that will prepare them without overwhelming them. Through hands on demonstration and guided play, I can prepare you and your child for medical encounters, and coach you both in coping strategies. Calm, informed parents are the best support for their children when facing routine and unexpected medical visits and hospitalizations.

I am pleased to announce the expansion of my private practice as a Child Life Coach on the upper east side in Manhattan. Child life specialists are trained in child development, education, anatomy, health care systems, family systems, ethnocultural issues, advocacy, and bereavement. In and out of hospitals, we help children and families prepare for and adjust to medical encounters by providing education, medical play, support,  coaching and advocacy.

Here are several of the services I offer to parents & schools:

  • Coaching and Support for Parents in::
    • how to prepare their cildren for medical events, from routine wellness appointments to surgery or long term treatment.

    • how to support siblings when a child is ill

    • how to support children through a parent’s serious illness.

    • Child centered play skills to caregivers who wish to connect more with children in this digital age.

    • In home preparation for elective medical, diagnostic, and surgical procedures.

    • Workshops: Please see my listing on Cottage Class Parents As Heroes: Supporting Children Through Medical Encounters
  • Professional Development: Training and Support for Teachers
    • How to support your class (school) when a student faces illness and loss

    • Child-centered play techniques

    • Emotionally responsive teaching

    • State mandated child abuse detection and reporting

  • Video Conference Consultation and Support
    • If traveling is an issue, I am available through video chat to support parents at a distance

More information about my practice can be found on my website at  debvilas.com, and please take the time to like my FaceBook page at Pediaplay

I greatly appreciate any referrals to parents and caregivers who need this kind of support. I can be reached at debvilasconsult@gmail.com

IMG_3260

All the best,

Deb

Deborah Vilas, MS, CCLS, LMSW

Follow me on Twitter:  @DeborahVilas at Twitter

CLC Video with Deb Vilas Appearance: That’s Child Life!

Child Life & Art Therapy in Disaster Shelters: The Humanity Factor

DSCF2017

During these recent days of hurricanes, tornados, fires and violence, it is hard to know in which direction to turn – what to focus on – where to put our energies. Fred Rogers taught us all to “look for the helpers”, and I always find that calming and inspiring, so I have decided to republish a piece that I cowrote with Tara Lynch Horan after we coordinated services at a shelter in NYC following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It gives a taste of what child life specialists and art therapists can do to ease the suffering of children in times of upheaval.

In addition, tapping into our ability to BE the helpers can also assist us in making sense of tragedy. In this vain, I attended a training this past weekend given by  Children’s Disaster Services  in coordination with the Child Life Disaster Relief organization. It was empowering, and I highly recommend the training to anyone who wishes to volunteer to provide safe play opportunities for children following disasters. You can do this locally or be deployed to other states in the USA. And if you can’t lend a hand, donations to organizations like these can still make a difference and impact quality of life for children.

Here is the article reprinted from Vilas, D. & Lynch Horan, T. (2013). Trees, Houses and Sidewalk Cities: Child Life and Creative Arts Interventions at a Post-Sandy Shelter.  New York Association for Play Therapy Newsletter, January 2013, 16 (2).

“A phone call from a Naval Commander stationed at a shelter in  NYC sparked the —-  Shelter Creative Arts Therapy / Child Life Initiative Mission. Commander Moira McGuire headed up a mental health team at the shelter serving many families. As a behavioral health nurse, she saw the need for therapeutic activities for the approximately 50 children facing displacement and uncertainty. In response to her outreach, a consortium of Creative Arts Therapists and Child Life Specialists quickly assembled. Our goal was to provide therapeutic creative arts opportunities to children and families post Hurricane Sandy. We hoped to facilitate psychosocial coping and adjustment to the stress and potential trauma of the Hurricane experience and to the stressors of the shelter environment. The first team of volunteers that responded within 24 hours numbered 14 and included 11 child life specialists who were colleagues, alumni or current students from the Bank Street College of Education, along with two art therapists and one dance and movement therapist.

We would like to share some of the techniques that we employed successfully during the two weeks that the shelter was in operation. Leyla Akca, an art therapist, brought paper shopping bags in on that first day. She led children in an activity that explored the “stuff “we carry with us daily, and the invisible stuff we carry on the inside no matter where we are. It was a powerful metaphor, and the children took to it eagerly, decorating their bags with many open-ended materials. Leyla had previously participated in disaster relief in Turkey following earthquakes there. She had a lot of wisdom to share with us all, and her activity gave us focus and purpose.

DSCF2016

Maryanne Verzosa, a child life specialist from St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital, supplied found objects from nature, which included sticks and twigs. As she gathered children in a circle sitting on the floor of the shelter, the children spontaneously created three-dimensional houses out of the materials. One child presented his stick house to his uncle, saying, “This is for you because you lost your house.” Commander McGuire had asked us to bring sidewalk chalk with us, as the children had access to an outdoor patio. Her instincts were perfect. A six year-old boy spent all afternoon creating a chalk city of roads, “for the children”, and buildings. We provided the child with miniature buildings and figures for his chalk city, and the play continued and drew other children into its circle.

images-2

One of the final activities took place during the last day when families were moving out of the shelter, many of them to hotels. Tara Lynch Horan, a child life specialist, worked with several art therapists on a community project of building a mural tree and decorating it with leaves representing what families leaned on during Sandy‟s aftermath. The art therapists worked with the children creating the tree, while Tara went from cot to cot, engaging parents in depicting their resiliency factors on precut leaves made from construction paper.

The collaboration of Child Life and Creative Arts Therapists brought about many therapeutic moments for these children and families. The activities employed a variety of directive and open-ended techniques. As we would expect, the children and parents created their own meaning and healing. All they needed was the time, space, materials and gentle encouragement from trained therapeutic agents. Humanity at its best.”

Why Aren’t We Preparing Kids for Disaster

Print

Beal_Photo_sm Guest Blogger Heather Beal is a military veteran with 23 years of crisis management and operational planning experience that she draws upon daily in her battle to raise two well-prepared, happy, curious, and intelligent children. As a trained emergency manager and parent, she saw the need to provide age-appropriate disaster preparedness information to young children in a way that empowered rather than frightened them. She is currently writing additional books to cover a greater spectrum of potential disasters children may face.

“Generally speaking, we do not prepare our children for disaster. We make them hold our hand in the parking lot and talk about the dangers of getting burned by the stove, but we stop short of this really big “disaster” word. When I think about it, I can come up with a few excuses we call reasons as to why we don’t give this topic the attention that we should.

First, like our children, (but usually without donning the superhero capes and masks), we believe that we are invincible. It (the disaster) can’t happen to ‘us,’ it only happens to ‘others.’ Folks – look at Hurricane Harvey, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and any other number of disasters. With that many people affected – the ‘us’ and the ‘others’ are the same people. We need to look at disaster as a probability, not a possibility.

Second, we think talking about disaster will be too scary. I get it. No one wants to tell children anything bad could happen. We all know our children could get terribly hurt running if hit by a car in the parking lot, but we don’t get into explicit details about injury and death. We do however, talk to them about being safe, making good choices, and not doing things that could more likely result in their getting hurt.

We should approach talking about disaster in the same way we approach other learning topics or the consequences of actions or inaction. We don’t need to focus on the destruction a tornado can cause, how their lives could be uprooted, or what other things could dramatically change. We can however, talk about what children need to do to stay as safe as possible.

There are no guarantees in life for anything. We can’t guarantee that a car in the parking lot won’t do something stupid, just as we can’t guarantee the tornado will miss a child’s house, school, or childcare. But we, as parents, as childcare providers, as educators, as caregivers, as emergency managers, and as community members, can arm our children with the tools to succeed. We owe them that.

Sounds good – but how would I know, right? Fair question. A few years ago I tried to explain to my then 4-year old daughter that she and her brother might be woken up in the middle of the night to go into the basement if there was a tornado warning. Of course, it was already dark and stormy (thunder and lightning and everything). Needless to say, I did a very poor job, ultimately scaring her and beating myself up about my failed attempt to mitigate later fear through a botched explanation. Never again I vowed.

That was when I discovered that almost no one was having the conversation with young kids (toddler, preschool, or kindergarten) about disaster. At the same time, I realized that disaster was not going to sit by patiently and wait until my children could calmly and rationally discuss everything at a grown up level. I decided I could develop a way to talk with them in a way that didn’t scare them, but instead empowered them by teaching them what to do and giving them back a little control in a typically uncontrollable situation. They might not be able to stop the disaster, but they could do something to increase their safety within it.

I started Train 4 Safety Press to develop picture books that would teach children what to do “if.” As I conducted research, I discovered a few books out there on the science of disaster, but almost none that taught young children what to do when the disaster was happening. Our first book Elephant Wind tackles what to do during a tornado. Tummy Rumble Quake teaches children about the Great ShakeOut™ and earthquake safety.

Children have a great capacity for building their own resilience. Teaching them how to protect themselves can have an exponential effect. Children could not only help themselves, they could help their classmates, their teachers, their family and their community. Isn’t anything that increases the odds we bring our children home after a disaster worth it? Can we afford not to talk about it?”

And here is a great resource: National Child Traumatic Stress Network

9780998791227