Scribbling Siblings 2013

Hi! My name is Amanda Andrews and I’m the newest member of the Tracy’s Kids art therapy team at Children’s National Medical Center.  I’m an art therapy graduate of George Washington University, where I discovered my passion for working with oncology populations and in medical settings. I am here for the summer to work primarily with the siblings of the children who are here for treatment and appointments, but I also get to interact and make art with many of the patients themselves.
 
The siblings I work with get an opportunity to create their own art work at the art center in the waiting room – We like to call it “Scribblin’ Siblings”.  It’s a great place for them to share, create, and explore while they wait.
Since it’s summer and these kids are spending a lot of their time in a boring waiting room, I try to keep things fun! I’ve been working to create various, inviting themes each week to keep things interesting and to provide an environment that allows the kids to be themselves.
 
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We’ve been working on projects like these:
 
Make your own giant shield
Creating superheroes with super powers
Make and fly paper airplanes
 
The very hungry caterpillar
catepillar string
   
Bones and X-Rays
xrays
 
Make your own turtle
turtle bowl
 
 
 
It’s been great getting to know the kids who are here each week, becoming the art table regulars. Some of them have even started teaching ME how to make things and showing me ideas that I can share with everyone else.
 
I’m looking forward to a fun and creative summer with these siblings!  
 

Flamingo!

During a recent visit to the clinic’s art room, a very creative six-year-old immediately began gathering materials – several giant paper towel rolls, some masking tape, and pink construction paper.  This young lady always has a very clear plan of what she wants to make in the art room, but this was obviously going to be an extra-special creation. 

Our young artist worked quietly and very intently at the art table, never looking up. Eventually, she gathered a few more materials, including orange and black paint, extra-large googly eyes and a bunch of pink feathers.  The art therapists waited in anticipation to see what she was going to create that morning.  A few helping hands, careful placement of tape and a couple of strategic scissor snips later…

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And we had a bright pink flamingo, with a smiling orange beak make its debut in the art room.  It is has been great fun to have our friend, the flamingo, sitting on our counter and watching over the creativity that happens in the art room everyday.

CNMC American Flag!

Local artist, Kari Kant, has graciously chosen Tracy’s Kids as a charitable partner for her art show on the Rooftop Terrace of the Newseum Building. A portion of the sales from her abstract paintings will be donated to Tracy’s Kids – Thank you so much, Kari!

Maybe even more exciting, she invited the children served by each of the Tracy’s Kids chapters to create their own artwork to be included in her show. Each Tracy’s Kids site has created their own version of the American flag, inspired by one of Kari Kant’s abstract motifs. To recognize the Kari Kant art show opening this evening, we wanted to give everyone a preview of the American flag created by the children and teenagers at the main campus of Children’s National Medical Center.

Our flag brings together the smaller individual works of over twenty different participants in the Tracy’s Kids program at the CCBD at CNMC. The unique qualities of each person are certainly visible, but the overall image of the flag speaks to the community that can be fostered through creativity and art-making.

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Thank you to Kari Kant for supporting Tracy’s Kids and for inviting our children and their artwork to have a moment in the spotlight alongside her own paintings!

Coloring Pages

One of the most fantastic things about being an art therapist for Tracy’s Kids is seeing the endless number of ways kids express themselves through art materials.  We are surprised on a daily basis – paper towel tubes become flamingos and model magic turn into a glittery galaxy.  With all of the wonderful and enticing art supplies we are so lucky to have, it is very easy to overlook an unsung hero in the art room – coloring pages!

There is so much to be said for a couple of coloring pages and a box of crayons.  Printing images of a new patient’s favorite superhero or animal offer us a great way to begin developing a therapeutic relationship.  Having ready a patient’s favorite pictures following a difficult blood draw can facilitate a transition from tears to coping through coloring.  We can quickly offer a child a comforting and familiar image to make the hospital less of a scary place.  

Being presented with an image can be a lot less intimidating than facing a blank piece of paper.  Coloring within lines (when developmentally appropriate) can be a calming and containing experience when coping with anxiety or pain.  Parents and family members of patients often request mandalas (circle drawings) as a therapeutic way to pass time and gain a sense of calm.  Even we (the art therapists and other staff members) sometimes find ourselves coloring as a great way to regroup after a very busy day.  We’ve found that you are never too old to enjoy coloring!

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It’s coming together…

Between a busy art room full of patients, siblings and other family members out of school for Spring Break and making our usual visits to inpatient rooms we have been on our toes these past few weeks!  During a few spare moments we have begun to put together pieces of our collaborative canvas project from Creative Arts Therapies Week.  It has been so fun to see how smaller pieces of artwork born of so many different visions can come together to create something entirely new! 

Here is a glimpse of our progress! And we’ll show you the final project very soon… Stay tuned!

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Radiation mask

 Much of our time working with children with cancer and other life-altering diseases is spent trying to transform thoughts and experiences that are challenging and really scary into something more manageable.  Incorporating pieces of medical equiptment into artwork can help to normalize kids’ experiences and give them a sense of mastery and control during their treatment process.  Art work such as this can serve as a reminder of the bravey and resilience shown by children facing such daunting medical treatment.

The mother of one of our young patients (who recently underwent a bone marrow transplant) brought his radiation mask to the art therapists, asking them to transform it into “something that can hang in [my child’s] room to remind him of everything he’s gotten through.”

radiation mask

A common part of the preparation regimen for a bone marrow transplant is radiation, which destroys the patient’s own bone marrow in order to make way for the donor’s bone marrow. If the radiation is to a person’s head, a radiation mask is made to help keep the person’s head still and in the same position for each radiation treatment (which can be multiple days, sometimes over the course of several weeks).  The creation and wearing of a radiation mask can be a very scary experience, as materials are stretched over the child’s face in order to ensure an accurate fit.  During radiation, a child must wear the hardened mask which is secured to a table. 

Using a heat tool and scissors, the art therapists were able to cut away the extra material from the face of the radiation mask and painted it with bright colors and stars.  Now the mask is a fantastic reminder for the patient and his family of the many challenges they have overcome throughout their fight against cancer.  

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Happy New Year from CNMC!

Every New Year’s Eve, the art therapy room atChildren’s National Medical Centercloses for one day so that the art therapists can THOROUGHLY clean the room. Not only is this a great and necessary way for the Tracy’s Kids art therapy program to start out fresh in the New Year, but it also gives the art therapists a chance to truly appreciate the sheer volume of art that can be made by our patients and families! As a part of the cleansing, we sift through all of the artwork made by the hundreds of children who visit the art room each year. Stacks of paintings and piles of masks and mountains of model magic… Going through everything provides us with MANY great reminders of the wonderful things that happen in the art therapy room. We get a chance to laugh and share wonderful memories of the work we have done with children and families throughout the past year, encouraging us to continue our commitment to the mission of Tracy’s Kids in the coming year! 

We start 2013 with a clean art therapy room – one with plenty of space for all of the new and amazing things that will surely happen here in the coming year.

It’s like starting off with a brand new, blank canvas!

And we are all excited to see what will happen next!

Happy New Year!

 

Elizabeth Burks: Becoming an art therapist…continued

Although I somehow knew in the back of my mind that art therapy was where I would ultimately find my place in life, the journey there was much less than straight forward.  After college, there was no way I was ready to jump right back into graduate school, so I worked for several years in retail position that required a large amount of creativity with paper goods.  My favorite part of the job was encouraging people to experiment with art materials and to help them feel empowered through instruction and inspiration in any art endeavor.  Eventually, I felt I needed to move away from retail and more toward the aspect of my job that had left me feeling fulfilled. 

I applied to graduate programs and was accepted to the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL.  I especially like the emphasis Adler placed on addressing issues of social exclusion, sending its students into underserved areas of the community for internships.  As I started practicing art therapy as an intern in my second year of graduate school, I was fortunate enough to be placed in an urban hospital working primarily with children.  It was here that I developed the desire to continue working with kids challenged by life-altering illnesses, ultimately leading me to find Tracy’s Kids!

Elizabeth Burks – How I became an art therapist!

For as long as I can remember, I have used art as a means to explore my self and the world around me.  I especially realized the value and benefit of art making as a teenager, grappling with the awkwardness and confusion that comes with personal growth during the transition to young adulthood.  I began to discover the power of art as a tool for communication.  It was so much easier to communicate my thoughts and feelings when I could refer to a tangible piece of expressive art. 

 In college, I had a very difficult time choosing a major – a decision that in retrospect should have been quite straightforward.  My parents encouraged me to pursue art, but to set myself up so that I could successfully support myself after graduating.  When I finally realized that all of the classes that interested me were in the psychology department, I had my answer.  I majored in psychology and minored in art, a combination that was a perfect fit for me. 

 Growing up, I had never known that art therapy was a professional field of work.  Throughout my own art making endeavors, I really felt as though I had stumbled upon something brilliant – the use of art as a catalyst for introspection and processing of emotion and life events, big or small.  I couldn’t help but wonder how the field of psychology wasn’t all over this!  It was not until flipping through a catalogue of graduate classes that I simultaneously had my “AHA!” moment and discovered that I had, in fact, not been the first person to discover art therapy.  

 To be continued…

Care for the Caregiver

 

All staff members in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders work very closely with families and patients, some of whom we have known for months or even years.  Working alongside these families, staff members naturally witness and experience a large range of emotions.  As a traditional workday on the unit doesn’t always allow for very much downtime, theTracy’s Kids art therapists host regular Care for the Caregiver sessions for staff members in the art therapy room. 

Care for the Caregiver sessions allow a time and space for any and all staff on the Hematology/Oncology unit to take time out of a busy day for themselves.  During this time, staff members are encouraged to draw support from one another and to use the art materials provided to facilitate the process of relaxation and reflection.  Mandalas, or circle drawings, are a very popular choice amongst staff – the containing and centering qualities of the circular form have long been used in cultures around the world. During a sometimes hectic workday, the art making creates an opportunity for self care that enables staff members to continue to provide first class care for patients and families.