‘Contact with Nature can be immensely healing.’

Caroline Jay founded and runs the Seeds of Hope Children’s Garden, a national charity which aims to promote the use of nature in helping children manage loss. For twelve years she ran a SAND (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity) group, supporting families after the death of a baby. We spoke to Caroline about using life cycles to teach children about change, how nature can help us come to terms with loss, and how her own experiences inspired her to write her new book, Seeds of Hope Bereavement and Loss Activity Book.

What inspired you to write the book?Jay_Seeds-of-Hope-B_978-1-84905-546-8_colourjpg-print

A love of Nature and of being outside in the sun and air has been my inspiration for the Seeds of Hope Activity Book – that and the realisation that so much in Nature echoes the changes that happen in life.  None of us can live life without change.  All change implies loss and new beginnings  – and this is a pattern ever present in Nature.

In your book, you use life cycles in Nature as a means of explaining death.  Why did you choose that particular method?

Mainly because life cycles are fun!  How amazing to see frogspawn turn into tadpoles that then turn into frogs!  Or a grub become a caterpillar that disappears into a chrysalis out of which bursts a butterfly!  Also because looking at the lifecycles that happen all the time in Nature can help us understand that change and loss are part of a natural order.  “Death is a part of life is a part of death is a part of life is …” and so on as the circle turns.  A seed becomes a plant that becomes a flower that becomes a fruit that contains the seed from which a new plant will grow.  A baby becomes a child who becomes an adult who becomes an old person who will eventually die as new babies are born.  The 4 stages of the life cycle in Nature reflect the 4 stages of a human life.  The pattern continues: there are 4 seasons in the year, 4 weeks in the month, 4 quarters in the year.

Have you found yourself applying the methods you describe in the book in your own personal life?  Have they been helpful?

When my first child, Laura was stillborn, I found myself completely out of balance.  My hospital notes said I was a mother but I had no child.  The world around me seemed suddenly full of babies and heavily pregnant women.  The pain of grief was palpable.  I took long walks in the woods.  I found contact with Nature and the outside world to be immensely healing and grounding at a time when my world had been turned upside down.  Grief for most people can be a very dark place.  Planting seeds or plants and watching them grow in the Spring after the darkness of Winter can be uplifting and provide some hope of brighter times to come.

Does the grieving process for children and adults differ greatly?

The huge range of emotions we may feel when grieving – sadness, anger, shock, disbelief, fear, guilt, numbness to name a few – are generally speaking the same for children and adults.  One difference is that children are usually only able to stay with their feelings for short periods of time – a bit like jumping in and out of a puddle, they may be very sad one minute and want to go out and play the next.  Adults will generally have easier and clearer access to the information surrounding a death or a loss whereas children will generally be dependent on the adults around them to tell them the facts.  It is a natural instinct to want to protect children from painful life experiences but, in the case of a death, this can lead to confusion.  Children fare better when they are given honest information.

What has your experience with SAND and the Seeds of Hope Children’s Garden taught you about how people deal with loss?

Everybody responds to loss and bereavement in different ways.  There is no right and wrong way to travel the road and there are no shortcuts.  Very generally speaking men and women tend to grieve differently in that women are inclined to want to talk about their feelings for longer while men are more inclined to want to take action to restore the status quo.  Partners, whether male or female, often grieve in different ways and at different speeds.  In the case of a child’s death, the loss is equal and therefore no one person is better able to support the other.  Some seek out a support group while others prefer to grieve privately.

How do you hope your book will make a difference?

The activities in the book serve to provide structure for and clarify the grief process for a child allowing them to see the natural process of the cycle of life in Nature.  The images encourage exploration and observation of creatures, plants, and seasons.  The way in which a child’s journey through grief is handled will fundamentally determine how they manage all future losses in adulthood.  I hope the Seeds of Hope Activity Book will empower children to explore their feelings in ways they can understand – by drawing, playing, exploring and having fun.

You can find our more about Caroline’s book, read reviews or order your copy here.

Request a copy of our latest brochure of books on Dementia.

Our latest catalogue of books on Dementia and Working with Older People is now available. With full information on our new and bestselling dementia titles, our dementia catalogue is a tremendous resource not only for those working with 2014-October---Dementia-Catalogue---COVERpeople affected by dementia, but also for family members, friends and carers. Including practical books for professionals, manuals on how to incorporate creative approaches into dementia care, as well as guides on coping with dementia for friends, family and individuals who are themselves affected.

To receive a free copy of the catalogue, please sign up for our mailing list and we’ll get one out to you right away. You may also request multiple copies to share with friends, family, colleagues and clients–simply note how many copies you would like (up to 20) in the ‘any additional comments’ box on the sign-up form.

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to get more information about our outstanding new and upcoming titles such as How We Think About Dementia and Developing Excellent Care for People Living with Dementia in Care Homes. The catalogue also features information on bestselling titles such as Leadership for Person-Centered Dementia Care  and Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Life Care, as well moving personal accounts of the experience of dementia such as Dancing with Dementia  from Christine Bryden.

Click this link to see a listing of new and recent titles from Jessica Kingsley Publishers’ Dementia list.

To request a copy of the JKP complete catalogue of books on dementia, please click here to fill out our sign-up sheet. Please be sure to click any additional areas of interest as well. You should receive a copy of the catalogue within two – three weeks.

 

 

Praise from a reader— An insight into how ‘The Asperkid’s Launch Pad’ changed one mother’s life

Rebecca in England shares how reading The Asperkid’s Launch Pad by Jennifer Cook O’Toole changed the way she thinks about autism:

Just dropping by to say that I got hold of The Asperkid’s Launch Pad yesterday, read the first couple of chapters and felt my life changing.

I have an 11 year old Asperboy who has just started college here in the UK. He is doing an amazing job. An absolutely amazing job. But he is finding the change really very difficult and of course, he is under scrutiny by all those older kids who seem so together and adult, as indeed many of them are. I guess it feels kind of like you are a tiny boat and you are trying, everyday, to negotiate the Bristol Shipping Channel; one of the busiest waters in the UK, if not the world. I think that’s what college must feel like to him.

Last week he had a big anxiety outburst and shouted at himself that he was a ‘stupid baby.’ It was the first time it had all come out like that, in those words. I held him and talked to him and made him an icy drink (your tip—thank you xx) and we spoke about demons and how they can grow inside your head. We talked about how they get put there and how they love to be fed with all the evidence they can find to back up their idea about you … which is not the truth. We spoke about how they lie and twist things and hang on to all the bad stuff and discount the good stuff so they can get bigger. My son said he had had his demon for years and that was what it said to him and it made him not like himself.

We both cried a lot at what demons can do. I told him his demon was wrong and I told him about my bad demon and he said my demon had it wrong too. We had a lot of hugs. We wrote down what those demons said, along with our other worries, and put the words in a box, on the shelf, in a cupboard (again—your tip from your video—thank you xxx) and left them there until we want to talk about them again. He calmed down instantly after doing this exercise. It really helped him. Thank you.

Anyway, yesterday, whilst reading The Asperkid’s Launch Pad I realized that I have been feeding my son’s demon. It makes me cry to say it but I can see it’s true. Not in the things I say but in the fact that I do so much for him, hover over him, jump in and help when he struggles. I guess I want his life to be as easy as possible and I know it is very far from that so I do all I can to help. Yesterday I saw that for what it was—that although my intentions were good and true, the effect of my actions was actually harming my son by not allowing him to grow, learn and take responsibility for things. I realized I have been doing too much for him, taking over when he struggles, doing tasks that he is actually really capable of doing if he was shown how and got support to do them.

I saw this, cried, took a deep breath and said ‘I can fix this!’ Again— your words—so simple but so good to say. I went downstairs and got to work. I cleared the surfaces in the kitchen so there would be space for him to help me cook. I made a dead space that just had an old box of bills in it into a space for him to have his college things. I made a sign for that space to designate it his—it was a good sign mounted on shiny card with his school logo on it. It looked great.

He came home and together we made hot chocolate. With all that space on the surfaces it was easy to do. I demonstrated and he copied. He made the whole thing. He got a bit worried but I did not jump in and do it for him. I just showed him how and encouraged him. He even lit the gas hob after I had shown him how. We went and sat down and watched our favourite TV show with our drinks.

Later last night we went into the kitchen to get ready for the next day. I have been packing his bag for him for college but now I can see that he needs to do this for himself. The funny thing is (although it will make sense to you I think) that I didn’t need to ask him or encourage him to do it. He went to the space I had made and packed his bag himself, got his water bottle and placed it next to his bag in the space for the morning. He got all excited and looked at the sign I had made and said “I like going to college,” and then, I’m not kidding, he drew himself up and said “I’m NOT a baby.”

I saw, right there, what I can do to make that demon shrink and to make my son’s confidence grow. After only one change in my little house I saw the difference right there in front of me. He said it. He spoke up against his demon and I saw it wince and shrink. It felt good, better than good, to see that.

I thought that my most important job as a mother of an asperboy was to protect my son and smooth out everything I could for him. I have been wrong. My most important job is to empower my son. To step back. To let him be him. To be there for him but not to take his powers away. To encourage his powers to come out, and, as they come out, so his demons will retreat.

I am so moved by what I have learned I had to let you know. It was your book that made me see a very very important thing. It is so often your advice and your words that I turn to when things get tough. I always come away from an encounter with your work feeling positive … yes, feeling empowered. You empower me so that I can empower my son. And thus the world gets better.

Bless you Jennifer. We are so lucky to have you in the world.

Browse our latest collection of books for adoptive and foster parents.

Here are our new and bestselling titles for adoptive and foster parents, or those thinking of adopting or fostering. For more information on any of the books inside, simply click the link icon next to the cover image to view the full book page.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people – with Marion Baraitser

Baraitser_Reading-and-Exp_978-1-84905-384-6_colourjpg-printMarion Baraitser demonstrates the power of writing with traumatised children and young people. Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people:
When disturbed young people have read aloud together a strong text, talked about it with a practiced facilitator in a roomful of trusted community members, discussing characters and subjects that concern their own lives, and then written about it, it can transform their idea of themselves and of their future lives. They are better able to externalize self-hood so they can exist in the world, feeling that their internal being has connected to the outside world through books, in some profound way, a form of ‘being-in-development’, a process of growing and changing the many selves they can uncover by this process. The facilitator brings energy, optimism, warmth and responsiveness, even inspiration, or at least motivation or affirmation, to each session.
Here is Amina on the value of writing in helping her to heal:
Writing is helping me to put down memories, different perspectives, to try to find the line… Talking doesn’t do this. When I write I am having a relationship with my journal. Writing is like having a conversation with yourself. I tend to be more honest… pick up on things that lie deeper. I love myself, in writing… I am lucky to be here… I am lucky to be alive… You must keep going and finding yourself, at the same time staying true to yourself… even though you cannot forget where you started from.

Boy

How reading great books together can change lives:
The Nigerian writer Ben Okri, who holds childhood memories of civil war in Nigeria, of his schooling in Lagos 400 miles from his family and of how, on reaching England, he lived rough, by his wits, homeless and miserable. He went to London because of Dickens and Shakespeare, but he also loved African writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. ‘Literature doesn’t have a country. Shakespeare is an African writer… Dickens’ characters are Nigerians.’ (Okri, 1992) As the young people read aloud in the company of a facilitator and a like-minded group, they become the writer, they are taken out of themselves, and if the writer is worth his salt, that encompasses a whole new set of dimensions that can change the way they regard life and their place in it.

Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

 

 

 

Cynthia Kim discusses the labels present in her book’s title—Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate

In this extract from Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life (forthcoming October 2014), author Cynthia Kim talks about the origin of the labels used in the book’s title and how she’s reconciled those aspects of herself since being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 42. 

While I’d heard of Asperger’s, I’d never considered that it might be something that applied to me. Sure I could see myself in some of the symptoms, but who didn’t?

I’d told myself that having Asperger’s was similar to being shy—a really bad case of shyness—which made it easy to dismiss. And I wasn’t that shy, was I? I had a job, a child, a husband. I interacted with people when necessary.

I carefully avoided the qualifiers. I had a job that I’d structured around all of my little neuroses. I had a child to whom I’d stopped saying the words “I love you” as soon as she was old enough to talk. I had a husband who was growing increasingly frustrated with my often cold, controlling behavior. I interacted with people when necessary and no more.

One day, as I listened to the radio story on Asperger’s, I felt like they were talking about me. Not about someone like me, but about me. I don’t know what made that story different from the others I’d come across about Asperger’s. And there had been many—my fascination with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism should have been an obvious red flag, warning me that my subconscious was trying to tell me something.

Maybe I was finally ready to see the big picture. Whatever the cause, the result was a feeling of lightness—like Asperger’s Syndrome was a bucket that would hold all of the things about myself that I found confusing and painful and shameful and frustrating and hard. Maybe finally having a place to put all those things would mean I wouldn’t have to juggle them anymore.

Intrigued, I began reading everything I could find about autism spectrum conditions. It quickly became obvious that Asperger’s was more than a collection of social and communication problems.

There were dozens of little tells that were undeniably me and had nothing to do with being shy or introverted. The way I often talk too loudly or too quietly. The intense interests in unusual topics. My blunt honesty. My heavy dependence on lists and routines. The way I don’t recognize people “out of context.” My discomfort with compliments. The list was long enough for me to finally admit that it might be a good idea to get evaluated for an autism spectrum condition.

As hard as that admission was, once it became clear that I was likely on the autism spectrum, my first reaction was relief. It explained so much about my life that I’d thought was my fault—for not trying hard enough or being good enough. It wasn’t an excuse but it was a hell of a good explanation.

As I learned more about Asperger’s and about myself, the initial relief gave way to a rollercoaster of emotions: anger, grief, resentment, fear, surprise, confusion, acceptance, joy, optimism and increasingly a deep, liberating sense of peace.

I finally had the right context for the labels I’d carried with me all my life, the ones that never quite felt like a complete explanation: nerdy, shy, socially inappropriate. Yes, I was the bookish, nerdy kid. The quirky teenager who loved karate and knew far too many random facts. I was always the quiet one, too shy to speak up in class, too introverted to chase after boys or go to parties. I was the kid with the weird friends and the weirder habits.

That shy, nerdy little girl grew up, but little changed. Soon she was the woman who didn’t seem to notice that it was socially inappropriate to wear the same clothes every day. The woman who knew even more random facts and considered them fascinating dinner party conversation. The woman who still occasionally forgets to check if she’s brushed her hair before leaving the house.

Nerdy, shy and socially inappropriate. Those words have followed me since childhood and now I know why. And it’s the why that has fascinated me. The why is what this book is about. Since discovering that I’m on the spectrum, I’ve been blogging about my experiences, processing what it means to suddenly be autistic at 42. In a way, I’ve been forced to relearn how to be me. All the things that I thought were broken or defective or weird about me? It turns out they’re perfectly normal for people like me. Even more exciting? There actually are other people like me. Lots of them.

As I’ve gotten to know other autistic adults, I’ve come to realize that we have much in  common and we are as diverse as any other group of people. There are few traits that are universal, which makes it hard to write a definitive book about life on the spectrum.

What I’ve written instead is what the experience of being—and of becoming—autistic has meant for me. There has been much to discover—about autism, about disability, about compassion and community and self. I have spent hundreds of hours reading and researching, measuring theory and practice against my own experience. It’s not an exaggeration to say that “all things autism” has become my new special interest.

The process of writing this book, of unpacking the hard and sad and joyful aspects of my life in the context of Asperger’s, has changed me more than any other experience in my life.

Nerdy, shy and socially inappropriate are no longer labels for me to shrink away from or offer up apologetically as an explanation for yet another awkward social encounter. I’m proud to be a nerd, I’ve traded in shy for the more neutral sounding quiet and I’m unapologetically socially inappropriate.

Understanding Asperger’s has helped me understand myself and that’s made all the difference.

Tessie Regan – Like Having Six Senses

Tessie Regan‘s new book Shorts is a series of short stories about Alcohol, Asperger Syndrome and God. This short introduction is about the relationship between alcoholism and Asperger Syndrome as viewed from her humorous and unique perspective.

I’m 31 and it has only been in the past year that doctors have used their probes and fancy words to explain what exactly has been going on in my brain. Getting my diagnosis meant everything made more sense. I wasn’t insane! I wasn’t rude or unsympathetic! I wasn’t a loner because I hated people! I wasn’t moody because I was impatient! I wasn’t easily distracted and unfocused because I had ADD! I wasn’t a royal pain in the ass as a child because I was undisciplined! I was operating in a different playing field and had been quieting the confusing and undiagnosed symptoms of Asperger’s by drinking myself to death – self-medication at its very finest.

The drinking washed away the feeling of steel-wool in my temples, removed the square blocks from my sternum and eased the clenching jaw that kept in the screaming because my skin was electric. The drinking made my senses relax and encounter the world at a slower pace. When I was sober some things would be so heightened that it was hard to distinguish which sense was receiving what feeling. It is like being dropped off by the mother-ship to run some experiments on the earthlings, but they’ve forgotten to give me the bone and flesh suit that can withstand the elements. Like sending a football player into the game without pads and a helmet… Oops!

Regan- Shorts - pg 36 - image

But I guess you’re thinking what did it look like, to be a drunk and to have Aspergers?

While I was drinking most of the symptoms were quieted and hidden. I could be so normal, but only when I was in active addiction. Before I began drinking and during seasons of sobriety was the best vantage point to see Asperger’s. It hid in ‘personality’ and easily fooled the people that loved me because to them it was a harmless problem they could chalk up my oddities (or the endless pool of my ‘personality’). For example I loved consistency and routine and any minor change would result in near cataclysmic meltdowns. As a child, it meant becoming physically ill and depressed and eventually hospitalized when we moved from West Virginia to North Carolina. As an adult, it meant drinking myself through changes big and small. From my older sister moving out of the country to the corner grocery store changing the layout of the aisles.

For the most part having Asperger’s means doing life with a little bit of funniness, but there is a darker side. There is a lot of time alone because I enjoy solitude and also because I need to reset. There is a lot of avoiding and making lame excuses because I don’t want to do something and this hurts people’s feelings. They really start to resent the criminal boyfriend that is espoused to my mind. They make wide circles and annoyed groans. They roll their eyes and suspect I didn’t see it because I didn’t look them in the eye. They wonder when I’ll grow up or mature or act my age. Sometimes they earnestly believe this is because I drank for so many years and that I have given myself some sort of permanent brain damage. The more that my cards make sense, the more they seem to offend the others at the table. But the misunderstanding is okay. When sunlight picks up the hairs on my bare skin one at a time and raises the temperature by a miniscule degree; when I can watch and see this miracle happening on my arm, I will remember that some people will not notice the warmth of it at all. I will remember that my bag of tricks is a blessing translated for the earthlings as ‘quirky’, and let it be well to be that too.

Tessie Regan is the author of Shorts, which is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers. To order your copy go the JKP website.

 

Browse our latest collection of new and bestselling titles for professionals in adoption and foster care.

Here are our new and bestselling titles for professionals working in adoption and fostering. For more information on any of the books inside, simply click link icon next to the title or cover image to view the full book page.

Jessica Kingsley Publishers acquires National Children’s Bureau publishing division

both logosWe are delighted to announce the establishment of a co-publishing partnership with the National Children’s Bureau, a leading children’s charity in the UK. Jessica Kingsley Publishers have taken on the publishing division of the NCB and will be adding over 80 titles on a range of subjects including education, social work, disability, counselling, and adoption and fostering to our existing backlist.

“The acquisition of the National Children’s Bureau publishing division represents an exciting proposition for JKP,” said Jessica Kingsley, Managing Director of JKP. “They are an excellent children’s services publisher with books founded on the expert knowledge of their staff. The chance to acquire classic NCB texts paired with a formal ongoing publishing relationship will enable us to further extend our existing publishing in the field of health, social care and education. It also provides us with a platform to expand our publishing in the field of early years, where National Children’s Bureau have an outstanding reputation for their work. The list perfectly complements the Jessica Kingsley Publishers’ aim to publish books that make a real difference to society.”

The National Children’s Bureau has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable, for 50 years. It works work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues.

Annamarie Hassall, Interim Chief Executive and Director of Programmes at the NCB said: “Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd is a tremendous new home for National Children’s Bureau books, where they will benefit from the publishing, marketing and sales expertise that Jessica Kingsley Publishers represent. We are also extremely excited about the opportunities for new publishing and we look forward to working together in future.”

View the top 10 most popular NCB titles here.