Touch as a way to share the radiant energy of care

By Barbara Goldschmidt, teacher, researcher, licensed massage therapist, and co-author with Niamh van Meines of Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Life Care: Take My Hand.

My passion for integrative health care began 30 years ago, when I travelled to California to recuperate from a car accident. I was a seeker, looking for solace and a new path. Southern California offered warmth, reasonable rents, and ways of living that seemed open to many possibilities. It was commonplace there to focus on fitness, and easy to find gyms, yoga teachers, health food stores, and book shops filled with Eastern philosophy and self-help. Then there was the Pacific Ocean, like a big glittering mirror, reflecting who you were and at the same time inviting you to look deeper.

This was all very different from life in New York City at the time, where a focus on fitness was not so commonplace. In fact, friends on the East Coast often looked down on some of these pursuits. They’d ask, ‘Why is California like a breakfast cereal?’ Answer: Because it’s full of fruits, flakes and nuts! Maybe they thought it was foolish, but I felt I was finally becoming sensible.

During my seven years in Los Angles I completed my bachelor’s degree at UCLA, but my most meaningful studies were outside of traditional academia. I explored ‘alternative’ therapies, as they were called back then, because they were not part of the mainstream. Fortunately, I found reliable teachers who were masters in their field. I practiced yoga every day in Bikram Choudhury’s classes. Thanks to Jack Gray, whose energy work was studied by Dr. Thelma Moss at UCLA’s Parapsychology Lab, I learned how to direct my thoughts to help the healing process and to use my hands to do what Mr. Gray called ‘transfer of energy’. Dr. Grace Brunler demonstrated how she had used color light in her medical practice with her husband Oscar Brunler. With Jon Hofferman, a grad student from the UCLA film department, we made a short documentary about her work.

It was an exciting time, because it felt like a real movement in personal well-being was taking place. It wasn’t being led by doctors, but by ordinary people who were looking for more than symptom relief. They wanted therapies that were natural and non-toxic, and a way to be involved in the healing process. That was a key—becoming an active participant in wellness and illness instead of being a passive recipient of care. The quest for ways to be involved in the healing process, and for tangible ways to share it, became the continuing thread of my studies, writing and teaching.

When I moved back to New York City I wondered if I would be able to maintain the gentle practices I’d learned. As it turned out, I discovered deeper and more specific ways of practicing. With Catherine Shainberg, director of the School of Images, I studied body-centered imagery for many years. Dr. Shainberg doesn’t give answers, but leads students to the answers within themselves. My sessions with her led me to study massage therapy at the Swedish Institute, a college of health sciences in Manhattan. This allowed me to go from just writing about this field to becoming a practitioner.

After working for a few years as a licensed massage therapist, a desire for a more effective ways to engage with the body led me to Jeffrey C. Yuen and the study of Chinese medicine. I began to understand that energy, or Qi, infuses all of life, and that it is fundamental. Qi is our energetic program; it creates the body and directs our growth, development and everyday processes, including healing.

While I appreciate that there exists some controversy around the idea of Qi—it has no standard definition, it’s not readily visible, and can’t be quantified—I embrace its usefulness as teachers and practitioners have done through the ages. Directing Qi through the use of meridian points became the foundation of my practice, which often included teaching people to move their Qi from within through imagery.

Today, ‘alternative’ therapies are not just for Californians and even in New York City there are plenty of gyms, as well as stores selling organic food. Yoga, massage, meditation and acupuncture are now part of an integrative approach to cancer care, palliative care or chronic conditions in medical institutions around the world.

Comforting Touch for Dementia and End of Life Care: Take My Hand, is an integrative approach that will hopefully inspire people to explore touch as a way to share the radiant energy of their care. I was fortunate to have as co-author Niamh van Meines, who brought in her expertise and passion as a massage therapist and nurse practitioner working in hospice and palliative care. In the book, we introduce people to the idea that their touch involves the physical aspects of skin, muscles and bone; the energies of warmth, electromagnetism and Qi; and the inner quality, or spirit, which they bring to it. All will have beneficial effects for both the giver as well as the receiver. And in the spirit of integrative care, we encourage caregivers to become part of a team—whether with a doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or pastoral advisor—so they will not feel alone, inhibited by initial awkwardness, or unnecessarily fearful.

I was happy when our book proposal was accepted by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, because they are so dedicated to the healing arts and to books that people can use to help one another. When Lisa Clark, our sponsoring editor, told us we would be part of the Singing Dragon imprint, it seemed especially fitting, because the energy of nature and the Eastern philosophy that teaches ways to engage with it have been a big part of my life. I hope that this book will be useful for the many people caring for someone with dementia or at the end of life, and that it will provide a meaningful way to discover both a tenderness and a power that we all have in common.

Next blog post: Compassionate care through touch – An interview with Niamh van Meines »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

JKP Authors Andrew Nelson and Cindy Schneider share Autism-Theatre Techniques with specialists from Hong Kong

By Andrew Nelson, author of Foundation Role Plays for Autism: Role Plays for Working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parents, Peers, Teachers, and Other Professionals

Fellow JKP author Cindy Schneider (Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger Syndrome) and I have been colleagues and friends for over three years now. We met at the Autism Society of America (ASA) Conference in 2008 and immediately began collaborating on national autism-theatre projects along with other specialists from around the world.

Very early on in our friendship and collaboration we identified a mutual interest in training other autism-theatre practitioners in a “summer institute” style workshop. We wanted to offer thorough training in the theories and techniques used by autism-theatre artists and educators, and to give participants hands-on experience applying new skills with actors on the autism spectrum. This summer, in late July, our dream was realized.

One year ago, a mutual friend of ours contacted me about autism-theatre training for a group of autism specialists from Hong Kong. Mandu James YC Cheung and his wife, Dr. Eva Lai, had previously collaborated with Cindy and me on a project called “Actors in Action” at the ASA Conference. Mandu and Eva asked if I could arrange for a group of six autism professionals from the Caritas organization to come study somewhere in the US. I immediately contacted Cindy and plans were soon underway.

Our new friends from Hong Kong arrived on a Friday afternoon and we immediately dove into an intensive autism-theatre training.

For three days Cindy, myself, and our new partner Chris Nealy demonstrated a variety of activities from books and from our work over the years.

One of my favorite theatrical tools is the mask. Masks can be used in a wide variety of ways to teach emotion recognition, body awareness, emotional expression, subtle social cues and postures, etc. This particular set of masks was designed and created for me by my friend Doug Berky, an actor and mask maker from Indiana. In the photo (below) we are conducting a role play and using masks to depict the emotions often seen in bullying situations, and how different outcomes can change the mask from happy to sad, etc.

We also began to help the trainees develop an action plan for when they returned to Hong Kong. The trainees then spent three and a half days in the field observing many of Cindy’s ongoing “Acting Antics” programs in a variety of settings around her home base in Pennsylvania. They were also given the opportunity to work directly with actors on the spectrum, implementing new techniques learned in the previous days’ trainings.

By the end of the seven day intensive, we group of trainers had developed a very lovely friendship with our six new friends from Hong Kong. We laughed together and spent time discussing how the experience was going to be put into action in their communities.

Overall, I believed we learned as much as trainers as they did as trainees. We were especially honoured when the participants presented us with original art created by artists with developmental disabilities in Hong Kong (pictured left).

Cindy, Chris and myself hope to stay in close contact with our friends to learn about their experiences in the months to come. We also hope to be able to offer similar experiences to others with an interest in autism and theatre in the future.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011

Creating Change for Complex Children and their Families at the Croft Child and Family Unit

Jo Holmes is co-author of the new book Creating Change for Complex Children and their Families, with Amelia Oldfield and Marion Polichroniadis.

Here, Jo talks about her work at the Croft Child and Family Unit in Cambridge, UK, which forms the basis for the model of a multi-disciplinary approach to multi-family work described in the book.

Both of my parents worked in education and apparently from an early age I declared an interest in “helping children with problems”. I had trained in medicine at Southampton University, UK, and was undertaking postgraduate training as a general practitioner when a placement in psychiatry caused me to change my career direction. For me, understanding and working with people on their mental health seemed the underpinning to all aspects of well-being. During my training with adults and older people with mental health problems, I was always fascinated by people’s childhood experiences and when I eventually started working in child and adolescent services I realised that this was where my passion lay.

For over a decade I have been the medical director of the Croft Child and Family Unit in Cambridge, UK. This is a specialist in-patient unit admitting children with severe and complex mental health problems and their families. Children are referred by community clinics across the Eastern region of England. The children are under 13 and usually in the primary stage of education. The children who are referred have a very wide range of difficulties, from children with severe eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, to children with autism spectrum disorders with highly challenging behaviour. However, whatever their particular challenges, all the children come into an in-patient unit because their development or mental well-being is compromised and community treatment has not been sufficient to meet their needs. Often the children we work with have been excluded from mainstream schools because of the severity of their difficulties. For the same reason the children are often unable to access ordinary community activities, and in extreme situations families can become virtually house-bound because they cannot manage their child in the community. Parents often talk about losing contact with friends and even family due to their situation.

In addition to their own inherent difficulties, many of the children using our service also have family members (often parents) struggling with their own emotional well-being – possibly as a result of trying to care for a child with severe needs or because of damaging events in their own background or both. The combination of a child with severe emotional and behavioural problems in a family under great stress can lead to breakdown in ordinary family life, with daily routines lost and families fire-fighting one crisis after another. When families are faced with such severe difficulties, it is easy to see that standard community interventions or support is unlikely to be able to reverse the compounding disadvantage that these children face.

So what does the unit hope to offer to these children and families in crisis? The fundamental aim is to provide a containing and therapeutic environment where children and parents feel safe and understood. It is vital that we can manage the most challenging behaviour to reassure both child and family that we will be able to keep them safe and that we can help them to regain some of their ordinary family life. Through individual and group work we aim to get to know a child really well in order to identify their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We also work closely with parents and have an opportunity to see how family relationships work on a day-to-day basis. We use the information we gain from these close observations to establish a holistic, integrated understanding of all the important factors driving the child’s problems and then use this to plan interventions.

A very important and unique part of the Croft approach is to admit children with parents as we believe that young children (especially those with severe emotional and behavioural problems) should not be separated from their families. We also think that children cannot be holistically assessed without seeing them in their family context, and our experience is that some of the most useful therapeutic work we do is directly with parents helping them to re-establish their parental authority and rebuild damaged relationships. Another important and unique aspect of the therapeutic experience for families at the unit is living side-by-side with other families facing similarly severe problems. This creates a community of families learning new skills together and supporting each other. Before admission families often tell us of how isolated they feel as if they are the only ones with children with difficulties. At the end of their stay parents say how talking with fellow parents and sharing experiences can lessen this sense of isolation and provide a sense of hope as families leaving the programme encourage the newcomers to stick with it and demonstrate that improvements are possible.

As we offer a number of different therapeutic approaches, including behavioural support, music therapy, family therapy, medication and more, the multi-disciplinary team have to work closely together to ensure that all the interventions we offer are complementary and work together towards the overall aim of the admission. So for example, the music therapist would need to discuss with the unit teacher the timings for therapeutic sessions to ensure that education sessions were not disrupted negatively, and the family therapist would discuss his work with the key nurse to ensure that the parents were getting coherent advice about the rational for any changes to their parenting approach.

So does it work? The team would not claim to cure all the problems facing the delightful but complex children we work with – and the intensity of our approach does not suit all families – but those who do engage fully with the therapeutic programme tell us that their weeks on the unit can sometimes be life-changing. For each family the benefit is unique and individual; for one child it might be returning to school after a break of over a year; for another family it might be establishing contact with an estranged parent; for another it might be the experience of professionals hearing and believing their family experience.

For some children the difference is obvious; a child suffering from anorexia leaving the unit at a healthy weight and able to go back to school and participate in their favourite dance lessons; for another child the ability to sit and concentrate for 15 minutes or more on their lessons when they could barely sit for 30 seconds when they first arrived. For some families the changes are more subtle and may only emerge after their in-patient stay. We hold an annual fun day when children and families are invited back to the unit for a barbeque and picnic and a chance to play games and meet up with friends they had stayed with on the unit. On this day parents often tell us about the changes they have seen since returning home: children managing to eat a family meal without fighting, or being able to go swimming for the first time in years. These are the stories that encourage us all as we work with children and families struggling to cope with multiple areas of difficulty.

Units like the Croft are rare – in England there are only seven such units and some geographical regions do not have a unit at all. The units have finite capacity and there is no doubt that many children with complex needs who could benefit from our services are not accessing the service. The children we see are often children who are involved with support services in education, health and social care, and multi-agency liaison both before and after admission is vital to ensure that all the professionals involved with a family are engaged with the unit, contributing to the assessment and ready to implement the recommendations at discharge so that children and families can maintain the momentum for positive change.

Jo Holmes has been the Medical Director of the Croft Child and Family Unit for over ten years. She undertakes specialist assessments of children relating to autism spectrum disorders, attachment disorders and other conditions. She also trains child psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

Using detailed case studies from the Croft and Family Unit to illustrate their model, Creating Change for Complex Children and their Families focuses on the needs of children with a wide range of developmental, emotional and behavioural difficulties, and explores the complicated interactions between these children, their families and their communities.

The authors examine how to integrate a range of therapeutic interventions and how to use the powerful relationships that develop between professionals and families to enable positive, lasting changes.

Click below for more info about the book.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

“That’s So Nice of You to Say”: Teaching Kids How to Receive Compliments

By Signe Whitson, author of How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.

As a therapist, I have talked with parents about the importance of meaningful praise in boosting a child’s self-esteem and strengthening family bonds. As a mom of two, I have conscientiously made sure to provide affirmative feedback on behaviors I want to see repeated and to communicate compliments aloud, rather than assuming my daughters know how proud of them I feel.

The flip side of the “How to Praise” category is equally important, though perhaps more challenging. While most people enjoy offering positive feedback, many find it difficult to be on the receiving end of genuine compliments.

Do you know a young person who finds it a challenge to accept compliments? Here are six Do’s and Don’ts that might help them out:

The DO’s of Receiving Praise

1. Accept compliments with a simple “Thank you.”

2. Let the person know that you appreciate the compliment:

“Thank you for saying that. I worked really hard on this picture.”

3. Look the person in the eye when you acknowledge the compliment. Teach kids that a friendly smile is a great way to use body language to support words of appreciation.

The DONT’s of Receiving Praise

1. Don’t snub the compliment by disagreeing with it:

If someone tells you your hair looks good, do not say, “Ugh, I’m having a bad hair day.”

If you are complimented on scoring during a sports match, do not say, “I totally messed up today—usually I score way more.”

A young person may think he is being humble, but his words may unintentionally insult the speaker and make him look ungrateful. Further, the awkward moments make people hesitant to offer praise again in the future.

2. Don’t shy away from the compliment by averting your eyes, shrugging your shoulders, or giving the credit to someone else. Be proud of your personal strengths and acknowledge the compliment with confidence!

3. Don’t return the compliment like a boomerang. While it is always nice to compliment others, returning a compliment immediately often sounds insincere. Wait for a genuine moment, then affirm abundantly!

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

“May I Please” and “No Can Do”: Guidelines for Kids on Making and Refusing Requests

By Signe Whitson, author of How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.

Do you know a child who is a little on the timid side when it comes to asking for what he needs? Does the word “pushover” come to mind when you think of how he is treated by his friends? While most kids are unreservedly bold in making and refusing requests from parents and siblings, it is quite common for youth to have difficulty asserting themselves with non-family members. Adults can help kids develop skills to assert important needs and refuse unreasonable requests by teaching fundamental assertiveness skills.

Making Requests

In teaching kids and teens to make assertive requests, use these two simple rules:

1. Come right to the point and state the request.

(Student to Teacher): Can you help me understand the directions for the math homework?

2. If the request is being put off or ignored, be persistent in asking for an answer.

(Child to Friend): I need to know if you can pick me up by 7 pm.

Common missteps in making requests include being too passive:

(Student to Teacher): If it’s not too much trouble, would you help me with my math homework? But if you’re busy, it’s really okay. I can ask someone else or just figure it out on my own.

Or too indirect:

(Child to Friend): I was really hoping to go to the football game tonight. My parents won’t be able to drive me. I wish it wasn’t so far or I’d just walk.

Learning how to assertively communicate a request does not guarantee that a person will always get exactly what he wants, when he wants it, but this is not the goal of assertive communication. Rather, the goal is to teach a young person to be able to express himself in an emotionally honest, direct way and to build meaningful relationships with others.

Refusing Requests

It is equally important that kids know how to refuse unreasonable requests from others. This skill is the heart of resisting negative peer pressure. What’s more, young people should be taught that they have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty.

Use these four basic guidelines to teach a young person how to assertively refuse a request:

1. Be direct, firm, and honest when refusing a request:

I prefer not to do that.

2. Ask for more information if you are not sure what the request involves:

Can you tell me exactly how much this will cost?

3. Postpone giving an answer if you need more time to consider the request:

I need to talk this over with my Mom. I will let you know by tomorrow morning.

4. Use I-Messages to express your feelings assertively if the other person tries to force you into granting their request.

I get frustrated when you keep asking me to go with you. I want you to take “no” for an answer and not ask me to go with you anymore.

While making requests and saying “no” to a parent may seem like second nature to a young person, it is likely that the same child finds assertiveness much more challenging when it comes to his friends. By teaching kids and teens basic skills for assertively making and refusing requests, adults can give young people a set of lifelong skills for engaging in emotionally honest, direct communication and for resisting negative peer pressure.

For additional strategies for teaching young people assertive anger skills, check out
How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Anger Between Friends: A Seven Year-Old’s Journey toward Assertive Emotional Expression

By Signe Whitson, author of How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.

It’s one thing to write about helping kids make smart choices when it comes to expressing anger—it’s another thing to watch an emotional situation play out right before your eyes and hope that your own child will make a good decision! Last weekend, I took my daughter and her friend to a pizza-n-games type of place. For them, making time for the delicious pizza buffet is like “having” to eat their veggies before they can enjoy dessert; wobbly crane machines and spinning prize wheels are the true delight of the restaurant.

My daughter brought two weeks worth of allowance to the restaurant, hoping beyond hope to win enough tickets to redeem for a quarter’s worth of plastic toys. Okay—that was my cynical adult perspective sneaking through. What I meant to say was that my daughter set a goal, helped around the house for two weeks to earn money, and saved it all for a valued (if not valuable) prize. Her single-mindedness was admirable and her hopes were peaking by the time she downed her requisite two slices of pizza.

First game—lose. Second game—lose again. Third game—the charm? No—near miss! Fourth game and last set of tokens—victory! She won 35 tickets—ten more than she even needed to win the nickel-sized plastic crab of her dreams. She and her friend walked to the prize redemption machine, filled with giddiness and glee. My daughter carefully threaded her tickets through the narrow slot and watched the digital reader tally her score. She triple-checked the machine for the right code for her chosen toy. She entered the first digit, then—one button-press away from her coveted prize—her friend leaned into the machine and pressed the entire panel of buttons at once! Out came a round, grape lollipop—just the prize my daughter never wanted!

I watched the whole scene unfold from about 10 feet away. From high hopes to dashed emotions, it was a roller coaster ride before my very eyes. I held my breath to see how my daughter would respond. What choice would she make to express the anger over what, in her world, was a major wrong?

First, came the tears. Then, there was a foot stomp. I’m pretty sure I saw steam come out of her ears next. She buried her head in my stomach, walked with me out of the game room, and like a true therapist’s daughter, started talking her way through the situation. Her stream of emotional consciousness flurried through four basic choices in expressing her angry feelings:

Screaming & Shouting

Her first instinct was to stomp, scream and shout. She wanted to yell, “You ruined my game and you did it on purpose! I hate you! I’m never bringing you here again. You have to give me all of your tickets so that I can get a new prize!”

This type of verbally aggressive behavior is a common impulsive response by kids. Whether verbal (calling names, threatening) or physical (hitting, grabbing, kicking), aggression is destructive to relationships and never the best choice for expressing angry feelings.

Holding it All In

Talking her way through the aggressive options helped her vent some of her angry steam. She then began to consider a much different course of action. “It’s okay if I don’t get the crab. The kids will like me more if I don’t say anything else. I can always earn more allowance and come back in a few weeks.”

In this passive frame of mind, my daughter tried to convince herself that her needs were not as important as the needs of her friend or of being liked, so she considered allowing her needs to go unmet.

Getting Revenge

Where my daughter spent the most time debating her choices was in the revenge category:

“I’m gonna press all the buttons on the machine when she is picking her prize next time.

When she puts her tickets down, I’m going to rip them all up and say it was an “accident” like she said to me.

Next time I go to her house, I’ll hide her piggy bank so that she knows what it feels like to lose all your money for nothing!”

In the moment, her ideas for passive aggressive revenge felt justified. Knowing that aggressive actions would immediately get her in trouble and passive behaviors wouldn’t feel satisfactory, she stayed stuck in this more socially acceptable, but emotionally dishonest way of expressing anger.

Tell it Like it Is

With a little coaching to get over the seemingly sweet prospect of revenge, my daughter ultimately steered her own course toward telling her friend honestly and directly how she felt about the button-pressing incident. The whole decision-making process took about 10 minutes of discussion, a quick role play, and a long, cool drink of water, but then my daughter was able to assertively say, “I got really mad when you pressed those buttons because I had my heart set on winning that crab. Please be more careful when I’m trading in my tickets next time. I don’t want you to touch any of the buttons when it is my turn at the prize machine.”

In the end, the real outcome my daughter was hoping for was to go home with the crab. She did not get exactly what she wanted, but she did achieve something bigger on that playdate. She ran through a series of choices in her own mind, used me as a supportive sounding board, and ultimately made a choice that demonstrated emotional-control, strengthened her friendship, and made her mama proud!

Read the previous article by Signe Whitson, “Decisions, Decisions: Helping Kids Make Constructive Choices for Expressing Anger”.

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and Chief Operating Officer of the Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) Institute, USA, an international certification program that trains adults in turning crisis situations into learning opportunities for children and youth with chronic patterns of self-defeating behaviour. Signe has over ten years’ experience working as a staff trainer and therapist for children and adolescents in individual, family, group, and school settings.

For more information on teaching young people skills to communicate anger effectively, check out How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

“I am not a statistic or a category…By God’s grace, I am.” – Craig Romkema, Graduating Class of 2011

HUGE congratulations to poet and JKP author Craig Romkema who, after ten years of hard work and dedication, has graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Dordt College, located in Sioux Center, Iowa, USA.

Craig is the author of a breathtaking book of poems, Embracing the Sky: Poems beyond Disability. Here, he reflects on his determination to achieve his intellectual goals in the face of difficult physical challenges presented by his autism and cerebral palsy.

My journey began in 2001 as a nervous freshman, wondering if I could tolerate the increased stress and rigor of college classes. I only took two classes per semester since my cerebral palsy and movement disorder make fast typing difficult. Add in my sensitivities to sound and light and my tendency to act more autistic under stress and I knew that I had great challenges ahead of me.

Craig Romkema accompanied by Marliss Van Der Zwaag, Coordinator of Services for Students With Disabilities at Dordt College.

Four things helped open doors of understanding towards me: first, the meeting Marliss (pictured above) and my mother held with the new professors explaining my behaviors and my ways of working in the classroom; second, a video that described my communication system to the professors and my new classmates; third, my aides who provided me with physical and emotional support so that I could relax and tap out my contributions to classroom discussions; and fourth, my book, Embracing The Sky, which allowed everyone to understand my life and to hear my voice. My book is still sold in the Dordt College bookstore.

And so we trudged on through snow and ice and rain and welcome sunshine, sometimes my mother or other assistants, through ten years of exams that took the class one hour but took my slower hand more often three or four, through class after class of puzzled but friendly students and gradually relaxing professors, through hours of listening to textbooks on tape or read by helpers, and of composing hopefully thought-provoking papers, through years of the blessed delight of learning! We became tired and out-of-sorts from time to time, but my brother and sisters had passed me by and I was determined to complete what I had begun. My parents would find me immersed in our college annual, studying the faces of the graduates. I wondered what feelings I would experience crossing that stage.

I believe my sister’s photograph (above) reveals them all. I will be forever grateful to those who allowed me to take my place alongside my intellectual peers, reveling in the ferment of ideas. I hope the next step of my journey will include more enlightened souls who will enable me to add my contribution to the meeting of this world’s needs. I am not a statistic or a category, or even just a client. By God’s grace, I am.

Below is a beautiful and fitting poem from Embracing The Sky which Craig wrote for his mother, Barb Romkema, upon his graduation from High School in 2000.


Great friend, listener,
Divider of my shroud of fear,
To you the words are given
That no one else knows are there,
For in perfect relaxation they flow like a river of escape,
Of connection, of joy.
Long you battled my defenses,
The gobbledygook of a frightened mind,
Reassuring me that the words could proceed unimpeded
Through practice and trust.
Eventually you calmed my spirit enough
That my mind could direct
My hand,
And the words,
Blaze their message
From ignominious disability
To honored academia.

This I celebrate today–
Tassel hanging, robe swishing,
Marching with measured steps into the ceremony.
With honors
They tell the world,
While onlookers silently wonder,
But you and I know the journey we have traveled

So great friend, listener,
Divider of my shroud of fear,
I carry this diploma for all the years
You sought me.
Now my words can comfort you.

A few comments from Barb on his graduation from Dordt:

I have been privileged to sometimes walk alongside Craig and sometimes cheer him from a distance, but always to try to honor his desire for a full, inclusive life. Thankfully, others have supported us in our pursuit of that dream. We need their encouragement to make a new way for Craig and others like him.

Craig wants to keep writing, to be able to make a living using the words he loves so well.

We hope the world will create new possibilities for him.

Many thanks to Craig and Barb for sharing their thoughts on this very happy and well-deserved occasion! Click below for more info about Embracing the Sky.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Decisions, Decisions: Helping Kids Make Constructive Choices for Expressing Anger

By Signe Whitson, author of How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens

Pack lunch or buy it? Headband or hairclip? Tell the truth or spare her feelings with a little white lie? Every day, kids face dozens of choices, from the ordinary to the complicated. One of the most important decisions a young person makes each day has to do with how he handles angry feelings.

Anger is a basic, spontaneous, temporary internalized feeling, usually triggered by frustration and experienced as an unpleasant state (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). It comes and goes in all of our lives and can be experienced as mild, medium, and intense. While anger is a universal of the human experience, its expression is diverse. Consider these four basic choices Leslie can makes to express her anger at being excluded:

Leslie brings her Chinese jump rope outside during school recess. She invites a group of classmates to play. The kids quickly organize the order in which each person will jump. When play begins, Leslie soon realizes that she is left out of the line and is stuck holding the rope the whole time. She is feeling cheated and angry.


Leslie’s first instinct is to act her anger out aggressively. In her head, she envisions grabbing the jump rope and storming away from her classmates, yelling, “Next time, I jump first. It’s my jump rope!”

Aggression is usually impulsive and unplanned. Whether physical (hitting, grabbing, kicking) or verbal (calling names, threatening), aggression is destructive to relationships.


On the other hand, Leslie thinks to herself, “It’s okay if I don’t get to play today. The kids will like me more if I just let them play and don’t ask for a turn.”

A passive person feels that her needs are not as important as the needs of others, so she behaves in ways that allow her rights to be ignored or violated by others.

Passive Aggressive

Leslie also considers lifting the rope suddenly while Madison is jumping, causing Madison to trip and fall. When Madison asks, “What did you do that for?” Leslie innocently shrugs and says, “Oh—sorry. It was an accident.”

Passive aggressive behavior is a deliberate and masked way of expressing feelings of anger. It involves a variety of behaviors designed to get back at another person without the person recognizing the hidden anger.


In the end, Leslie explains to her classmates that she brought the Chinese jump rope so that she could play and she would be happy to continue sharing, as long as she is included in game.

Assertiveness is a style that is used to express anger in a verbal, non-blaming, respectful way. It is an honest form of communication in which a person expresses their wants and needs without hurting or violating the rights of others.

Adults play a powerful role in helping kids make constructive choices when it comes to anger expression. By talking about everyday situations as they arise and role-playing various scenarios and outcomes, young people develop specific skills for assertive anger expression which, in turn, helps them form healthier interpersonal relationships. With regular practice, handling angry feelings effectively can become as routine for young people as deciding on lunch menus and selecting hairstyles.

Read the next article by Signe Whitson, “Anger Between Friends: A Seven Year-Old’s Journey toward Assertive Emotional Expression”.

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and Chief Operating Officer of the Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) Institute, USA, an international certification program that trains adults in turning crisis situations into learning opportunities for children and youth with chronic patterns of self-defeating behaviour. Signe has over ten years’ experience working as a staff trainer and therapist for children and adolescents in individual, family, group, and school settings.

For more information on teaching young people skills to communicate anger effectively, check out How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

JKP author Mary Mountstephen meets with educators and students in Kuala Lumpur

This Spring, JKP author Mary Mountstephen was invited to Singapore and Malaysia to give a presentation based on her book, How to Detect Developmental Delay and What to Do Next: Practical Interventions for Home and School. Here, she talks a bit about her trip.

Twice before I’ve visited Singapore to build relationships with schools and organisations, and to deliver training around early interventions with children with developmental delay.

On my third trip there this Spring, I was was also invited to Kuala Lumpur by a woman called Joyce Moi who is a parent of a child with learning delays, and who has become involved in this field as a result of her daughter. Joyce knew of my work with children in the UK and my articles and book, How to Detect Developmental Delay and What to Do Next. She has close contacts with several schools and, given my success with children who are underachieving, knew that they would be interested in my approach and the Assessment Toolkit I have been developing.

During my stay, we held meetings with parents and schools and I also had the opportunity to assess five children for developmental delay. It was amazing to see how much interest there was in learning about the causes of underachievement and supporting the children in their care. I am grateful to Joyce, her colleagues and the students I worked with for a rewarding experience!

Mary Mountstephen leads a large specialist support centre at a major international independent school, and is an educational and neuro-developmental delay specialist in private practice, as well as being an international consultant to schools and organizations. She has an MA in Special Education and many years’ experience teaching in mainstream, independent and special schools. Mary lives in Glastonbury, UK.

Mary will travel back to Singapore in July to meet with other professionals. Her new website – – will be running from early June 2011.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Parallel Process Revealed Through Creative Supervision

By Caroline Schuck and Jane Wood.

Creative supervision encourages self reflection and self learning, through the use of attractive resources and experiential techniques. Our book, Inspiring Creative Supervision introduces numerous facilitation techniques such as narrative, drawings, charts, visualization and group work, and recommends the use of media such as toys, puppets, objets trouvé and picture postcards.

In creative supervision the supervisee, trainee or student is encouraged to actively re-create the original issue or situation using props and resources. For example, you might encourage a supervisee to re-create a scenario from the consulting room or classroom using objets trouvé. An interesting selection of items can be assembled at a moment’s notice or you can gather together a more permanent collection. You can add interest by including a variety of textures, weights, shapes, sizes and materials. Suitable objects might be seashells, coloured plastic bottle tops, pine cones, cotton reels, marbles, key rings, colourful erasers, pencil sharpeners, Christmas decorations and souvenirs.

When presented with this collection, you will notice that the atmosphere in the room changes. The supervisees or students relax and become excited, as if they have shifted from work mode into play. They become engrossed in choosing objects that represent the characteristics of their clients or colleagues. The choice of the objects and the placement of them reveal the dynamic of the relationship, as well as the atmosphere felt in the original situation.

As in all supervision there will be a parallel process and here it is revealed through the use of external objects rather than words.

The act of creation can be experienced in different ways – it might be meditative or energetic. It enables the supervisee to review their issues from a different perspective. The advantage of using stimulating external resources means that the supervisee can step back and become the observer of their own creation. Effectively they become their own supervisor to your meta supervisor.

When the supervisee sits back and relaxes, or looks around the room, you know that they have completed the scenario and are ready to receive feedback and then go into the discussion stage of the process. This might result in an action plan in which changes are made to the placement of the object trouvé, which will in turn change the real life relationship. Our book gives case study examples of this.

The focus of creative supervision is to enable the supervisee to self-reflect and open up their blind-sports. The supervisor no longer needs to be the guide, prescribing or informing the supervisee’s thoughts. Instead the supervisor becomes a gentle facilitator or catalyst providing the minimum intervention that enables the maximum change.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.