Felting- A Universal Language

As the snow fell outside the hospital today our patients were busy creating colorful, snuggly felted scarves.

felting

 

One little boy from Afghanistan particularly enjoyed the felting process. As he lay the bright red wool onto the table he smiled and called to his mom to come look at what he was creating. As his mom watched, he pulled little tufts of the soft material apart and carefully laid them on top of one another. His mom enjoyed watching the process, she shared that back home, in Afghanistan, they use the same felting process to make beautiful carpets.

felting!

 

afghan rug

 

This is the wonderful nature of art- the creation process and the materials are often a bridge between so many different cultures. Art, in this case, brought a little reminder of home to the clinic for this family.

Time For a Check Up!

Play therapy and art therapy often go hand-in-hand, especially at our clinic.  Many of our younger patients will engage in an art making process that turns into a puppet show and then a song or a dance. Often the play that our patients engage in reflects their experiences in the clinic.  Medical play kits allow patients to become doctors, surgeons and nurses performing everything from check- ups to shots on dolls, siblings, parents and staff.

Medical play also allows patients to be in control of something that is potentially scary. Reenacting a scary shot or procedure can help a child feel more in control of their own medical care.

Recently one of our clinic dads got a check up from two of our youngest doctors. They were very thorough in the exam- blood pressure and temperature were repeatedly checked!

medical play1

medical play2

 

Caption this!

Caption this!

Caption this!

One of our families has a relative serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan. They asked if the kids at the clinic would like to create a garland of “gingerbread men” to send over for the soldiers to decorate their unit. We were delighted to help out.

One day my intern and I took a bunch of blank gingerbread people up for a patient in the hospital to paint. After the patient and her sister and the art therapists were done, we had eight beautiful creations decorated with very wet puff paint. On the way back down to the clinic where our creations could dry in safety, I rounded a corner in the radiation corridor and a gust of wind blew one of our darling little people onto the floor–face down!! When I picked it up, the print it left was really a funny sight! Someone who worked in the area helped us clean it up, and the little guy looked just fine when he dried–fortunately the artist had used plenty of paint!

Gingerbread men

Dream Traps

Over the course of treatment some of our young patients have nightmares, which are often related to their treatment experiences. One little girl came into the clinic upset about a nightmare she had had the night before. During her medical exam she told her parents and the treatment team about her nightmare and how it continued to scare her. As art therapists often do with kids who have nightmares, she was encouraged her to draw the dream. Once she drew it we discussed ways that we could get rid of the dream picture (by throwing it out, crumpling it into a ball, etc). This allows the child to externalize their experience and literally get rid of a scary thing.

However, once the patient had drawn the nightmare she decided that instead of throwing it away a better way to deal with it was to trap it in a dream trap. Using colored paper and LOTS of tape, we assembled an elaborately constructed trap. The trap was so complex in design that once it was complete the little girl, looking triumphant, confidently said, “no bad dream is getting out of here!”

tape blog photo 4

Several weeks later this patient returned to the clinic in need of a new dream trap because the one she made last time “was completely full”. So we got to work on a new, even more elaborate and colorful dream trap. This little girl even inspired other patients at the art table to create their own dream traps as well.

Happy, Happy Birthday to You!

Sometimes the things that the kids say in the clinic are so funny and cute that it is worth sharing. The priceless musings of our patients function not only as reminders of how delightful and resilient they are, but also as reminders of why the staff here loves the job that we all do.

There are so many examples of how our young patients make the everyday special with their unique view of the world.  A 3 year- old girl who had a really rough time and was admitted to the hospital, woke up the next morning  feeling better and excitedly requested sparkles and ribbon. She spent a long time creating a mixed media masterpiece, humming, singing and even doing an impromptu chicken dance as she worked. When she had finished making art and I was getting ready to leave the room she exclaimed, “Happy, Happy Birthday to you!”  It was neither her birthday nor mine, but she was just so happy that it must have seemed like the right thing to say.

photo- bdayblog

Sticky Art

Recently, a little girl started to come to our clinic for treatment. Although she is only 3 years old she is very brave when it comes to her medical procedures. The only thing that bothers her is the medical tape, which irritates the skin around her port (a tube for infusing medicine and drawing blood). Her fear of the sticky tape causes her a lot of distress and her parents as well as the medical team have been working hard each visit to reassure her that the tape is not going to hurt her.  Today we had an opportunity to make art about this fear when she exclaimed, “I want to make sticky art”!

With an array of colorful tape, stickers, glue dots and band-aids at hand this little girl set to work creating a flower garden. As she worked, the sticky materials stuck to her fingers and she talked about what it felt like to remove something that was stuck to her. With a sense of achievement, she peeled the band-aids off her fingers and stuck them to the paper.  

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Using sticky art materials and medical supplies to create her flower garden helped this little girl express her fear about the tape around her port.  Being in control of how much tape and how many band-aids she placed on her paper allowed for her to gain power over something scary. This is a good example of how art therapy can help address the fears that can come from some of the medical procedures our kids have to endure and how the art making process can help to empower them.

From Kidney to Bird: A Sibling’s Art Experience

As school approaches, I find myself reflecting back on the summer and all the patients and their siblings who joined us at the art table each day.  Summer is sometimes the only time when siblings are able to come along to their brother or sister’s medical appointments and many siblings look forward to the opportunity to make art.

Last week a patient who had undergone surgery to have one of her kidneys removed came to the clinic for a check- up. She brought her brother with her and they both spent the morning playing with model magic (a kind of squishy dough similar to play-dough). Each time the sister went back for her medical treatment her brother would start to mold and color his model magic to resemble various body parts.

Coloring the Model Magic

Coloring the Model Magic

At first the model magic was colored and flatted to look like skin, which he playfully flopped onto his arm. A few minutes later the skin was colored and balled up to resemble a little heart. The little ball was then colored blue, resulting in a grayish blob he decided looked like a liver. After more marker was added the model magic started to take on the form of a little pink bean.  He spent a while perfecting the tiny form until he finally identified it as a kidney. As he held the kidney in his hands he talked about how worried he was about his sister and how scared he felt when she had undergone surgery.  He talked about how he felt different from his sister because he didn’t have anything wrong with his body.

Creating the kidney

Creating the kidney

After sharing his feelings he then decided that he wanted to make a gift for his sister and he morphed the little kidney into a bird.

bird for his sister

bird for his sister

This is a good example of why sibling participation in art therapy is so important. At the art table siblings are given a voice to express their own feelings, concerns and/or misconceptions of their brother or sister’s medical condition.  Being able to make a gift or special token also provides siblings with a meaningful way to contribute to their sibling’s recovery process.

The Mosaic is Complete!

The mosaic that the kids have busily been working on these last couple weeks is now complete! It looks great and we are lucky enough to have it on display in our clinic during the month of August. Check it out!

The completed mural!

The completed mosaic!

Rainbow

Rainbow

Ladybug fairy

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Leprechaun, pot of gold and eagle

Flowers and artist

Flowers and artist

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Thanks you for all your hard work!

The doctor with the glasses

On the middle right in this panel from our Carroll Square exhibit in 2012 you will see a portrait of me that was done by an older kid--note the glasses!

On the middle right in this panel from our Carroll Square exhibit in 2012 you will see a portrait of me that was done by an older kid–note the glasses!

A little guy (almost three) was preparing to come to clinic with his big brother, who is the patient. His mom told him they were going to the doctor. “The doctor with the glasses?,” he asked. “No,” said mom, “the doctor doesn’t have glasses.” As they arrived in the clinic he came straight to the art area and said, “This is the doctor with the glasses, she lets me paint!” And paint he did. . .

Drawing Food!

A lot of times when our kids have to wait to eat until after a medical procedure, they choose to do art about food. Sculpting pizzas, cakes, cupcakes, drawing hamburgers, fruit, or ice cream is very common at the art table. Many of the kids drawing all this food have gone without breakfast–and sometimes lunch too–waiting for a test or scan that involves sedation. I always thought it was curious that of all the things that seemed to help kids who couldn’t eat, drawing their favorite foods was a big one!

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An article in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science may shed some light on this phenomenon. Researchers asked subjects to draw picture of  cupcakes, pizza, strawberries or green peppers. They found that drawing pizza elevated the subjects’ moods by 28%, cupcakes and strawberries by 27% and 22% respectively, green peppers only 1%. So maybe our kids knew intuitively that drawing food, even when they couldn’t have it, would make them feel better.

Here’s the citation and a link to the full article if you want to know more:

G. Privitera, B. Moshaty, F. Marzullo and M. Misenheimer, “Expressing Food through Art: Evidence for a Nutrient-Specific Effect on Mood,” Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2013, pp. 163-167. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2013.32016.

http://www.scirp.org/journal/jbbs/