Scribbling Sibs at Children’s National Medical Center

At the main campus of Children’s National Medical Center the “Scribbling Sibs” program is designed to better support our patients and families during the summer months. In June, July and August siblings have their own art space, located in the waiting room of our clinic, which provides them with a unique opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings using supplies from our mobile art cart. From drawings of favorite animals and sports teams to self-portraits and inventive creatures that decorate and brighten the clinic walls, it is apparent that children continuously embrace their creativity, spontaneity and imaginativeness in this space. In addition to their individual creations, patients and siblings have worked together to create group murals in the clinic waiting area. Our favorite so far is “Under the Sea,” an ocean themed mural filled with scuba divers, fish, turtles, crabs and a variety of other googley-eyed sea creatures. It has been so much fun to a part of the CNMC team this summer!

From Children’s National Medical Center

The art therapists from Children’s National Medical Center are very excited to be a part of the new Tracy’s Kids blog and hope to share some of the very special things that happen here every single day!

The Tracy’s Kids program at the main campus of CNMC is very lucky to have four master’s level art therapists – two full-time, one part-time, and one Summer position.  As we are fortunate enough to have this many therapists, we are able to provide art therapy services to inpatients, outpatients and their families in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders six days a week.

The mainstay of our services is the art therapy room (pictured below), a very popular place for patients and siblings to visit during their time at the hospital.  After finishing a new artwork, children and adolescents often request that their piece be displayed.   As a result, every available surface in the art therapy room is decorated with unique artwork.  When patients and family members return days, weeks or even months later, they are excited and touched to see that their artwork still has a place of honor in the art therapy room.  Just yesterday, a mother commented about how happy she was to see her son’s artwork still displayed prominently, nearly a year after his bone marrow transplant.

Art Therapy Room

 

The art not only provides the patients and families with a unique way to express themselves but also helps us to make a beautiful and welcoming space in the art

therapy room!  Displaying their creations in the art therapy room gives patients and siblings a sense of belonging and ownership in the hospital, and creates a sense of lasting connection with the staff members who supported them through their treatment.

Summer Art Workshops 2012

Tracy’s Kids participants are invited to attend a Summer Art Workshop series at the Lombardi Center at Georgetown University Hospital. We are planning three workshops, August 3, 10 and 17 from noon to 3 pm.

The workshops will explore the theme of Transitions: the transition between life in the clinic and hospital and “real life,” the transition from one grade in school to another, etc. The patient in your family might be off-treatment, nearing the end of treatment, or at a point where they feel well enough to think about the challenges of being both a patient and a normal kid.

The program is designed to support both patients, in the challenges from their perspective and siblings, with their perspective on what their medical condition means to the whole family. The workshops will be led by art therapist Tracy Councill and Kate Martin, Georgetown Art Therapists, with assistance from college and high school student summer volunteers. We will explore art, story, music and creativity, and have a great time together.

The art area in clinic will be our home-base, but we will spend most of our time together outside on the Podium level of Lombardi. The area up there is covered, so it is not too hot and we can stay dry if it rains. Do bring a bottle of water and a snack if you want!

Kids can attend as many sessions as they like, but please let us know which dates you plan to attend. If we get enough kids around the same age, we may be able to offer different tracks—one for younger and one for older kids. We will get back to you with the details if anything changes.
Call or email Tracy’s Kids Program Director, Tracy Councill, with questions or to register: 202-444-7599 or tracy@tracyskids.org.

Summer Carnival

Today was one of the best days of the year for the patients and families we work with at Georgetown. Hope for Henry (www.hopeforhenry.org), a local nonprofit whose mission is to bring smiles to the faces of kids in the hospital, brought its annual Summer Carnival to the Lombardi Cancer Center. Tracy’s Kids sponsored the Carnival—and later in the month we will again join forces for the second annual Summer Carnival at Children’s National Medical Center across town. The smiles on the kids’ faces tell the whole story of a day filled with amazing fun and surprises. Enjoy!

In other news, Friday begins our annual Summer Art Workshop series, described below. Patients in any of our four Washington, DC area programs are invited to join us for creative fun starting this Friday, August 3. Please email Tracy (tracy@tracyskids.org) if you can come.

Our new website is live!

Welcome to the new and improved Tracy’s Kids website! We have made some changes around here—and are pretty excited about them, and hope you will be too. Most importantly, we are now blogging. Each of the art therapists will be contributing to the blog, posting pictures, updating us on their current projects, and keeping fans of Tracy’s Kids up to date on the daily lives at each of the clinics. We hope you will read along and enjoy the new website!

The story of the Chinese Dragon

Two five-year olds with leukemia met at the art table in our Georgetown clinic, one from a suburb of Washington, DC and the other newly-arrived from China—fluent in two dialects, but just learning English. Cancer wasn’t the only thing the boys had in common—they both loved dragons! They bonded over drawing dragons and comparing their toys, and soon became fast friends.

Despite having cancer, on good days they had plenty of noisy creative energy. Around Chinese New Year we started talking about dragons. The one little guy’s dad knew an awful lot about them, so we decided to make one. Over the next few weeks, a silk fan, dryer hose, an empty plastic tub, ping-pong balls and duct tape became a six-foot long miniature dragon that the boys paraded around the clinic.

For the kids, the highlight was syringe-painting while cotton cloth to make the “skin” of the dragon. For me, as the art therapist, the best part was seeing their evolving project become the focus of each day’s clinic visit. Scheduled chemo faded to the background and friendship and collaboration took over. The boys bounded into the clinic asking, “Can we work on the dragon today?”

I have put up photos of the evolving dragon project to show you how you can make one too. Check out our Pinterest board for the details!

Art Therapy

When I tell people I am an art therapist for children with cancer, they often say “Oh my, that must be so sad!” But it isn’t. If you sit down at the art table in any of the Tracy’s Kids programs you will see a lot of laughter—and a lot of concentration. It’s fun to create, and creating can be fun even if you’re also getting chemo at the same time.

Think about the last time you were lost in whatever you were doing—cooking dinner, taking a walk, listening to music—your were busy, your imagination was rolling and time flew by. You were experiencing “flow,” an important ingredient in the creative process, and a big part of the healing power of art.

One of the benefits of art therapy is the opportunity to get in that groove. Cancer treatment takes a long time—in between the shock of the diagnosis and the first checkup when the doctor says you’re cancer free there are weeks, months, sometimes years, of chemo, scans, blood tests and all kinds of supportive care. Bringing art therapy to the infusion center makes waiting time productive. Play, creation, connection, self-expression, and relaxation cultivate a sense of community and excitement in our clinics.

We will be sharing vignettes from all five Tracy’s Kids programs on our blog—art ideas, great stories, glimpses of the fun and creativity the Tracy’s Kids art therapists witness every day.

For more on the concept of “flow,” see the website http://winmentalhealth.com/arts_therapy.php. There is an excellent article on the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who studies creativity, art therapy and flow.

Tomorrow, the story of the Chinese Dragon. . .

What have we been up to?

During 2011, Tracy’s Kids provided 11,271 hours of art therapy sessions—up 17% from 2010.  The program had 13,804 patient contacts, and 603 hours of consultation with medical treatment teams as part of its highly individualized engagement with thousands of young people and their families.

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Elephant Wisdom

In 2002, the District of Columbia hosted a public art exhibit called Party Animals. Artists from all over the area were invited to submit designs to decorate an elephant or donkey-the symbols of our two main political parties.

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Artwork By Tracy’s Kids Exhibition

From December 9, 2011 to January 13, 2012, Tracy’s Kids exhibited artwork at the Carroll Square Gallery.

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