Why one growing up talk is not enough…

Growing up Guide

Davida Hartman is a Senior Educational Psychologist who has been working with children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder for fifteen years. Author of the two new books The Growing Up Guide for Girls and The Growing Up Book for Boys, Davida shares her top ten tips for parents to help guide their children through the confusing changes during the pre-teen and teenage years.

 

 

 

Who remembers how they learned about growing up and all that comes with it; body changes, hair growth, periods, wet dreams or dating? Was it in the school yard, from a less than well-intentioned sibling or being sat down by an embarrassed parent for a speech that made no sense and was never to be spoken again? Although we all no doubt found Hartman_Growing-Up-Book_978-1-84905-575-8_colourjpg-print

the whole thing a bit confusing and sometimes downright worrying, eventually most of us managed to muddle through it all without too much trauma.

You can take it as a given that children on the autism spectrum will find all of this stuff even more difficult to figure out. And let’s face it – as tempting as it may be to follow in our parents footsteps and either ignore it completely or give a once-off talk and never have to think about it again, any parent of a child with autism knows that talking about it once is going to make very little difference to their child being able to change a sanitary pad or finding the motivation to shower every day.

So if a one off ‘talk’ isn’t going to cut it, what will? Here are 10 tips:

  1. Decide what your key messages are going to be and be prepared to repeat them a lot. Don’t be too ambitious, you can always pick new key messages at a later stage.
  2. Get their teacher on board with the same key messages so that there can be even more repetition in a different environment (such as school).
  3. Fake it till you make it! No matter how embarrassed or uncomfortable you might feel, try your best to give the information clearly and calmly using a positive, upbeat tone of voice.
  4. Be concrete and use correct terminology (i.e. not made up names that nobody outside of the family will understand). Also be careful about language being taken literally (e.g. that boys’ voices do not literally ‘break’).
  5. Keep it visual. This might mean reducing language, focussing on pictures and single words, using social stories or visual schedules or perhaps adding speech or thought bubbles to comic type graphics. If your child learns best through PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) teach them that way, likewise if they learn best through social stories. Visual organisers such as relationship circles or timelines can also be really useful.
  6. Use this information to create a ‘growing up’ scrapbook or folder which can be reviewed regularly. This can be added to and adapted as the child gets older and will be meaningful as it can contain pictures and information relevant to them, e.g. pictures of members of their family growing from a baby into an adult.
  7. If you are going to buy resources to help you, be aware of the confusing graphics and language that are sometimes used and make them difficult to be understood by a child with ASD. Be sure to use information that is presented in a clear, visual and factual way that your child will understand.The Growing Up Guide for Girls - Image p.48
  8. Special interests are a great way of making learning interesting, fun and meaningful. For example, if your child loves a particular superhero, create problem-solving scenarios in which the superhero figures out what to do in areas that your child is struggling with (e.g. appropriate touch with strangers).
  9. If you are lucky enough to have them on board, using peers and siblings can be an extremely valuable teaching tool. In the teenage years children tend to pay more attention to what their peers say about a particular topic than their parents or teachers. For example, you could decide to get an older sister or next door neighbour on board to talk to your daughter about the dangers of internet dating. Or a small group of carefully chosen boys could be taught how to sensitively support your son to learn about the importance of good body odour and washing.
  10. Provide real life practice, like role plays and supported experiences in community (e.g. going to the shop to pick a deodorant they like). Children on the spectrum can be very good at learning by rote what they should do in a certain situation (e.g. being able to list internet safety rules or what to say to a girl they like), but can have difficulty applying this knowledge when it matters. Real life practice is vital!

 

 

Davida Hartman is a Senior Educational Psychologist in the Developmental and ASD Psychology Department for Carlow and Kilkenny, Irish Health Service Executive. She is a regular lecturer and trainer on sexuality and relationship education for children with ASD and consults to a number of different groups and agencies. She has been working with children and adolescents with ASD for fifteen years in the capacity of a psychologist and a teacher. Davida received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Trinity College Dublin, her MA in Educational Psychology from University College Dublin, and she is a Registered Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI).

Read more about Davida’s new books The Growing Up Guide for Girls and The Growing Up Guide for Boys.

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Browse our latest collection of Special Educational Needs and Pastoral Education books for 2015

For more information on any of the books inside, simply click the title or book cover to view the full book page.  

To receive a print version of this brochure; contact us at hello@jkp.com

There is an alternative if you want people to live better with dementia

Shibley Rahman completed his PhD in frontotemporal dementia at Cambridge University, commencing a lifelong interest in the timely diagnosis of dementia. In this article he explores some of the work being done to reduce reliance on medication and increase our understanding and use of non-pharmacological interventions; looking to the future of dementia care.
You can learn about Shibley’s book,
Living Better with Dementia, here

Currently, Alzheimer’s Disease International estimate that there are 47 million people around the world living with dementia. Whilst the policy planks of ‘prevention’ and ‘cure’ continue to attract attention, there is concern amongst many that the people trying to live better with dementia don’t get caught behind.

Gordon-Swaffer-_Living-Better-w_978-1-84905-600-7_colourjpg-printThere’s been a concerted effort to look at the cost of drugs in the NHS in recent times. ‘Innovative drugs’ have been a big deal in the service, and it is reported that new innovative drugs approved by NICE between 1999 and 2004 added £800m a year to the UK drugs bill.

Irrespective of the cost of the drugs budget in England, one is right to query whether patients are being given the appropriate treatment based on the current best practice. A temptation of a medical doctor to prescribe a ‘magic bullet’ can easily explain away the ‘over-medicalisation of illness’, leading the Academy of Royal Colleges justifiably to take action earlier this year.

There are probably over 400,000 older people living in care homes, and possibly dementia ‘affects 80% of care home residents‘. With the scale of statistics, one is bound to be concerned at the potential volume of inappropriate antipsychotics scripts for people living with dementia. Prof Sube Banerjee helpfully reported on this issue in 2009 for the Minister of Care Services at the time.

Every chemical medication has its side effects. I am always impressed with the ease at which the pharmaceutical industry is able to market their drugs, given that there are 1000 billion nerve cells in the human brain all connected with one another directly or indirectly in various ways.

With so many different functions of the human brain, such as memory, attention, perception, language or planning, to name but a few, it has been a difficult task to work out which particular ‘hubs’ involving parts of the brain are particularly involved in certain functions.

The exact characterisation of wellbeing in dementia remains an active area of discussion. For example, five psychological needs had been described by Tom Kitwood – comfort, attachment, inclusion, occupation and identity. Identity itself has been subject to volumes of work, some empirical, but apparently the need for identity ‘involves maintaining a sense of continuity with the past, and some kind of consistency in the present life’ (Kitwood, 1997, p. 20).

In my book Living Better with Dementia: Good Practice and Innovation for the Future, identity is a really big deal. I suggest a possible way in which the human brain might be able to reactivate “sporting memories” from his or her own past. I also describe the powerful effect that music can have on the wellbeing of a person living with dementia.

Also, pervasive to my entire argument is that dementia should be recognised as a disability under the Equality Act (2010) and the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities. This takes the argument one towards ‘rights based approaches’, imbuing potentially a ‘rights consciousness’ of what all people are entitled to. When you consider that people receiving a diagnosis of dementia can find the whole experience totally disempowering, as described clearly by Kate Swaffer in her groundbreaking work, the idea that some form of reablement or rehabilitation is incredibly powerful.

The human brain is uniquely baffling. According to Professor Nancy C. Andreasan, “When the psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison looked at 47 famous writers and artists in Great Britain, she found that more than 38 percent had been treated for a mood disorder.”

Some people when they develop a dementia acquire novel artistic talents. How this happens is still a mystery, but it gives a whole new dimension to the term ‘living better with dementia’.

Also, a few months ago, I was asked to introduce by Lucy Frost, a specialist nurse in dementia, a film in a small church in Brighton, England. This film called Alive Inside was a brilliant demonstration of how people living in residential homes would get ‘switched on’ by listening to music from a portable mp3 player, enhancing individual and collective wellbeing. In contrast to medications, a portable mp3 player has remarkably very few side effects, and is relatively inexpensive.

It is claimed that, in Antiquity, Canus, a Rhodian fiddler, used music to “make a melancholy man merry, …a lover more enamoured, a religious man more devout.” One of Alan Partridge’s favourite quips was, “If music be the food of love, then play on.”

Music is a unique phenomenon in being at the interface between emotions, memory and perception in the brain. Cognitive neuroscientists have long recognised that music presents a special conundrum. Only last week, a paper in the prestigious journal Brain was published which sheds light on why music has this unique power even in advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The authors of that particular study hypothesised that parts of the brain, which were relatively unaffected in advanced Alzheimer’s disease, had a special rôle in the appreciation of music (parts of the brain including, perhaps, the anterior cingulate and pre-supplementary motor area).

The relevance of music to residents who live with dementia is all to see in the current series of #Dementiaville, now showing on Channel 4. But in this age of ‘doing things differently’, which is often sadly used as code for cutbacks, there has been a conspicuous reluctance to give non-pharmacological approaches for dementia serious consideration. As England, and other jurisdictions, teeter at glacier pace towards integrated care (and perhaps even whole person care), it is possible a volte face will some day come with the adoption of social prescribing and its offerings.

I feel the way for this alternative view of dementia policy to get momentum is not to have tokenistic involvement of people living better with dementia on a select few number of panels. They must be given prominence in leadership rôles so that they are listened to properly in service design, provision and research. The mantra of ‘there is no alternative’ has had its day.

Reference

Kitwood, T. (1997). The experience of dementia. Aging & Mental Health, 1, 13–22.

Find out more about Shibley’s book, Living Better with Dementia, read reviews or order your copy here.

A new one day course on the 5P approach from Linda Miller

Linda Miller Powerpoint

Course: Using the 5P Approach to prevent and manage behaviour difficulties

Date: Wednesday 1st July 2015, LONDON at the British Psychological Society Head Offices.

This is a practical one day course which will get you thinking differently about autism and behaviour and provide you with a toolkit to use time and time again. The course provides an overview of the 5P Approach Framework featured in Linda Miller’s book Practical Behaviour Management Solutions for Children and Teens with Autism and how to use it within your setting. Using the distinctive traffic light colours, it introduces the concept of Staying GREEN – adopting a preventative and positive approach to intervention ( by creating a GREEN Zone) and also looks at what to do when things go wrong – practical problem-solving and planning at Amber & Red using the 5P Approach problem-solving pathway. Using a consultation model, this course places an emphasis on how the 5P Approach can be used with individuals, with groups and also at organisational level. Delegates will have practical experience of completing each stage of the 5P Approach in readiness for use within their own setting and will be introduced to a range of practical resources and strategies which form part of the 5P Approach framework.

 

You can book your ticket HERE or go to the www.5papproach.co.uk for more information

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Linda Miller is also the author of Developing Flexibility Skills in Children and Teens with Autism which is available through Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Who takes care of the caregiver?

Shake up your view of your demanding and relentless work so that you can start to put yourself at the centre of your caregiving work. Cheryl Rezek, author of Mindfulness for Carers, has written an incredibly honest blog on why it’s important to say ‘no’, putting yourself first, and being mindful of your emotions as a carer.

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Taking care of someone else = neglecting to take care of yourself.  Does this ring true for you?  A carer or caregiver is often prone to using all their time, energy and resources giving the person or persons the attention and support that is needed.  However, the danger that can arise is that the caring is only working in one direction.

This blog isn’t about patting you on the back, telling you that you really ought to get some rest or saying what a great job you are doing.  You know all these things already.  You should be patting yourself on the back for all that you do as well as making sure that you get enough sleep and keep your stress levels down.  The chances are you don’t do any of those things or the rest of the long list that could be tagged onto that one.  This blog is about shaking up your view of your demanding and relentless work so that you can start to put yourself at the centre of your caregiving work.

Possibly one of the most difficult issues with being a caregiver is setting boundaries.  To do this can set in motion a whole range of emotions and fears – I’m being selfish; I don’t need help; what if something happens when I’m resting or out?; how will the person manage without me?  These responses are common and, at times, come about for good reason.  To say No to someone, in any form, may seem like a mean, uncaring or unrealistic thing to do but this is not always the case.  On occasions, the caregiver’s anxieties and fears are greater than those coming from the person being cared for.  We often don’t want to admit, or even acknowledge, that our anxiety may be what is driving us to be overstretched rather than only the needs or demands of the situation.  Perhaps there are occasions when you could go out or ask someone else to take your place for a short time but you may be reluctant to do this.  Why?  What is the concern behind this?  Do you think you’ll be criticised?  Have you lost touch with so many of your friends that you don’t actually have anyone to go out with?  Is it easier being the round-the-clock caregiver than having to deal with some other issue in your life?  Does your position give you power in the family or at work that isn’t allowed to be questioned?  Does your role give you a strong sense of identity that you may not otherwise feel?  As a professional, are you needing to present in a certain way to your colleagues or do you perhaps enjoy the energy and status that may accompany the demands of the job?  These are important questions to ask yourself as without some answers you will struggle to find a place for yourself.  With all the good that is done by being the generous and attentive caregiver, it can also work against you.

Most carers don’t set out to be in that role, unless by choosing a career in it.  The vast majority of family carers are doing it because of circumstance, often thrust upon them in some harsh way.  The choices here are dramatically reduced but, in spite of that, you still have a choice about how you take care of yourself as well as the other person.

There are evident differences between being a family caregiver and a professional person who is in a helping profession.  Family carers or foster carers feel an enormous responsibility for the wellbeing, comfort and survival of their relative or foster child.  Needless to say, professional caregivers such as nurses, doctors, social workers, therapists and health assistant also feel such a sense of responsibility but there is an inevitable difference as the family ties, bonds and history aren’t there, and while loss may be felt, sometimes deeply, it is not felt in the same way or with the same level of intensity.  Professional carers go home at the end of the day, or shift, and if they don’t they ought to.

It is important to also raise the issue of being a family carer for someone with whom one does not have a good or loving relationship.  This situation is more common than most people would like to admit but the other person’s vulnerability makes it very difficult to say no or to set limits.  Caring out of a sense of duty or obligation can lead to resentment and distress.

Caregivers come in many shapes and forms and people are in those roles for as many different reasons – a parent to a sick or disabled child, a special education teacher, a hospice worker, an adult child of elderly or ill parents, a partner of chronically ill or terminal husband or wife, a young child of an ill parent, a foster carer, a medical doctor, a community nurse, a health assistant in a mental health unit, a social worker, a carer of younger siblings.  The list is endless but the demands and stress frequently similar.

The big question is how you take care of yourself and if you don’t, why not?  Burnout and fatigue can lead to physical and mental health issues.  These are damaging and you then run the risk of making mistakes, becoming unwell and, at worst, needing to be taken care of yourself.

Mindfulness is a gentle, accessible and nourishing way of reducing caregiver’s stress and increasing their wellbeing and attention.  Research has also shown how those being cared for by people using mindfulness benefit from their carers being more present and open to them.

We are human and no matter how resilient we believe we are, how physically strong we show ourselves to be or how psychologically grounded we say we are, we are still human and being human implies that we have thresholds of tolerance.  It’s not about breaking or collapsing in a heap but far more about recognising that as a caregiver you need to take care of yourself as well as the other person.

Dr Cheryl Rezek is a consultant clinical psychologist and mindfulness teacher who brings a fresh and novel approach to how mindfulness and psychological concepts can be integrated into everyone’s life as a way of managing it in the most helpful way.  She has a longstanding clinical and academic career as well as runs workshops and authors books.  You can find out more about Mindfulness for Carers, read reviews or order your copy here.

 

Helping traumatised children let go of control

9781849057608 (1)In this extract from Helping Children Affected by Parental Substance Abuse, author Tonia Caselman talks about the importance of giving children and young adults a safe space where they can let go of control and shed their feelings of responsibility. Following an in-depth exploration of how victims of parental substance abuse feel about control and responsibility, you’ll find two activities that will help you carry out direct work on an individual and group level.

Read the extract now

 

You can find out more about the book, read reviews and order your copy here.

 

In Remembrance of My Co-Author and the Journey of a Lifetime

L. (Elle) Gianforte shares a tribute to her co-author Gregory C. Keck, who passed away suddenly before Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong: Strategies for Success was published, and  includes some of the back story of their collaboration.

“We need to write a book together.”

“I know! I feel the same way. But what kind?”

“An adoption book? A psychological thriller?”

“I’m game for either one. Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter what it’s about. We’re just such a great team. We have to do this.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

This is a variation of the conversation that Greg Keck and I had repeatedly since 2008, when I edited his third book, Parenting Adopted Adolescents. Greg and I met in the early ‘90s when we were both on the board of directors of ATTACh (Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children). Although our professions were different—he a world-renowned adoption expert and I a writer—we were both parents to two adopted sons. More important than that, we were friends from the start.

In 1995, Greg asked me to edit his first book, Adopting the Hurt Child, which he co-wrote with Regina Kupecky. Seven years later, I went to work in the same capacity on their second book, Parenting the Hurt Child. By the time Greg went solo with book number three, our writing team was firmly sealed.

“There’s a publisher in London who’s expressed interest in a book about traumatized children. Wanna do it with me?”

“I’m in!”

And so our dream of writing a book together—just the two of us as co-authors—was realized, and Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong was born.

When I finally adjusted to the thrill of this joint venture, I began to think about potential problems. Greg lived in Ohio, and I’m in California. How could we possibly collaborate on a book when we were nearly 2,500 miles apart? Surely we’d have to meet face to face to brainstorm at least a few times throughout the process. It could be difficult. It could be expensive. It could be a logistical nightmare.

And what about the voice? How could two people with such different styles from such diverse professional disciplines tell a cohesive story? Surely the individual voices would constantly bump into one another and knock each other over. It could be complicated. It could be frustrating. It could be a complete disaster.

In truth, none of those fears ever became realities. Greg and I went from book proposal to finished manuscript without ever once connecting in person. We began work on the proposal in March of last year and wrapped up the final chapter in October. We developed a process that was simple, symbiotic, and seamless. He wrote, I wrote, and we wove the parts together. Our rhythm became so fluid that it was impossible to tell where one voice left off and the other began. We hit our stride with the very first step and maintained the pace throughout.

We constantly marveled at how connected we were. How easy the process was. How well the book was unfolding. We exchanged dozens of virtual pats on the back because we were just so damn proud of what we had created. In phone conversations and emails, we fast-forwarded to the day when the book would be published and we could celebrate in style—and in person.

On January 21, 2015—mere days after our manuscript had gone through the copyediting process—Greg passed away suddenly. The shock wave that reverberated among his family and friends and throughout the adoption community was profound. This brilliant, sensitive, and funny man, who touched thousands of lives and brought clarity and hope to countless families, was gone.

I miss my writing partner. I miss the laughter we shared on a regular basis. I miss the sound of his voice on the phone. Most of all, I miss my friend.

When a manuscript is finished, the authors have the pleasure of writing their acknowledgments. I always think of this as the best part, because it presents an opportunity to thank all the people who contributed to the development of the book. When Greg was still alive, I wrote, “Saving the best for last, I thank my co-author, Greg Keck, for including me in this project. You are so talented and knowledgeable, and working with you is always a fabulous ride. I truly believe we’re the best team ever!”

Re-reading that tribute today makes me smile, because it allows me to revisit the amazing journey we took together. I will always carry Greg in my heart, and I hope he is in a place where he can still, in some way, share the celebration of our book’s release.

Just before he died, Greg expressed concern about the final stages of the production process.

“That’s just not what I do,” he said, when we received the editorial query. “I look at all the questions and it overwhelms me.”

I, on the other hand, am anal, detail oriented, and a lover of minutiae. I have been known to thrive on nitpicking, as our JKP team will confirm. In my last phone conversation with Greg, I let him know there was no need to worry.

“I’ll take it from here, buddy. I’ve got this.”

Twenty years of living with brain injury

Over twenty years ago, Philip Fairclough fell fifteen feet from a ladder onto a concrete patio, causing massive trauma to his head and severe brain injury. Eight years later his book, Living with Brain Injury, was published by JKP. Today, in support of Action for Brain Injury Week, Philip shares with us the progress he has made since writing the book, as well as the lessons he’s learned along the way which are sure to help anyone who has suffered head injury or cares about someone with a head injury. 

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Cover image for ‘Living with Brain Injury’

People often say, ‘Such and such crosses the divide of culture, status, sex, nationality and even religion.’ It wasn’t ’til my book, Living With Brain Injury was published by Jessica Kingsley in 2002 that I realised how brain injury crosses these divides and more – and this was despite my having previously given presentations before groups of litigators dealing with compensation for head injuries, social workers, care givers and hospital staff. It was further brought home to me by the number and types of reviews I read in magazines published here and in the States as well as the letters I have received from carers and sufferers alike.

Things I have learned which have helped me cope in every day life
In the early days, when I saw how my condition was affecting my family, I honestly felt I’d have been better dying. However, since then I’ve come to realise there is always someone far worse off than me and I tell people, now, for me every day is a bonus. Something else I’ve learned, which came as quite a shock, but helped me to try and see beyond the obvious, was understanding why the wives of some of my fellow sufferers, at the rehab unit, left them after their head injury. I remember saying to Pauline, how terrible that they should be abandoned at a most critical time in their life. Her comments on that were quite sobering. She told me that if it wasn’t for the fact that she loved me and  took her vows and our faith seriously, she might have done the same! We’ve now been married for forty two years with still some to go!

One final note on the matter of what I have learned. The OT’s at the rehab unit, from day one, stressed the importance of setting realistic goals and, having achieved them, setting some more. Though this was a strategy I had been employing for years, both as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and as a salesman, it was an invaluable tool in helping me keep focused on the positive aspects of life and putting the negatives on one side.

Things I wish I’d known before my accident
I wish I’d realised just how dangerous window cleaning was and had taken to heart the warning I was being given by the excessive costs of insurance! Yet for all that, whilst I wouldn’t want to relive the past twenty years nor for my family to go through it all again, I have learned so much that I wouldn’t have otherwise, contributing to ways in which I have changed since before the accident. For example; though it seems that my memories of what I was really like before the accident are flawed, one thing I do remember is that I had very little empathy for people with illnesses. Though my wife had suffered with health problems for many years and I was very understanding of her, since I’d had few serious health issues since childhood, I had no understanding of how sick people felt or were treated or what they needed from others. However, that changed fairly quickly when I realised how understanding and helpful people were to me. And not just friends, family, work mates and neighbors, but even total strangers. Since, I suppose, I expected them to understand me and make allowances for me, I was forced to change my attitude towards those with health issues, regardless of how serious or trivial they appeared to be.

Philip at home after the accident, before the move to Rosehill Rehabilitation Unit. The shape of the skull was caused by the removal of a part of the bone to relieve pressure on the brain.

Philip at home after the accident, before the move to Rosehill Rehabilitation Unit. The shape of the skull was caused by the removal of a part of the bone to relieve pressure on the brain.

Changes in my health
Whereas stamina was a real problem in the beginning, my fatigue requiring me to sleep most afternoons, for the past few years I have not needed to sleep. In fact, I am awake most mornings between five and six and I often work in the garden for two or three hours without ill effect.

Since I have had no seizures for the past fifteen years, meaning that under medical supervision I have been able to cease using anticonvulsants, apart from the freedom I have gained, many of the side effects common to such medication have also ceased or been minimised. This, I feel, has made me easier to live with. You’d have to check with my wife but I think she’d agree! This has also meant I have been driving again for several years and am just in the process of becoming the policy holder for the car insurance, something I’ve not done for over twenty years. I am also no longer classed as disabled which has helped me gain back much of my self worth. I have been working part time for the past fifteen years, back in my old job of selling which is another plus. The one other thing that has changed is that my enforced retirement has allowed me more time to write. Not only have I written my book, I have also written, and had published, sixteen newspaper and magazine articles in the UK and in Malta. I have written five novels, two of which are, at present, doing the rounds with agents, a full length children’s story and I’m currently writing two spin offs from one of my novels. I am determined to get something, in fiction, published! For two reasons: 1) I want to know if people find my fiction worth reading as my non fiction and 2) Despite only having eighteen months to go before officially retiring, I would like to regain self worth from being able to once again earn money to provide for my family. Watch this space!!

Things which haven’t changed!
I still have problems, at times, grasping things which Pauline or others tell me, requiring them to explain them again, sometimes more than once. I still have problems with time telling and numeracy and I also misread situations or misperceive what I think are people’s responses to me. All these things cause me irritation,  mostly at myself when I fail to understand things, which I have difficulty hiding.

Final thoughts
I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that things are a push over, that head injury is something and nothing or that I’m back to normal! I know I was very fortunate compared with many. I was very fortunate in the speed at which I was dealt with and the expertise available to me that day. I am fortunate in having a family like I do and the kind of friends which we have. Much of what I have is based on determination and a positive attitude and this stems from my unswerving faith in God whom I’m convinced had a hand in my life that day since there were too many coincidences for them to be coincidences! Something else which has contributed to my recovery is that, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I am active in our door to door ministry and regular bible study, all of which has not only kept me physically strong but mentally too, making my neural pathways knit that much faster!
Whether to a sufferer or a carer, my final note on this matter is as follows and you’ll find it in the last sentence in my book:

Remember: Where there is life there is hope and there is DEFINITELY life after brain injury.

You can find out more about the book, read reviews or order your copy here

Developing Luna: representing grief in childhood

Emmi Smid, author of Luna’s Red Hat, walks us through her creative process as she developed Luna’s character: from her name and her look, to her dress and her special hat.

The name Luna

The name Luna is not a coincidence.  Luna is Latin for moon. Symbolically, the name Luna stands for transition, renewal and balance, among other things. I thought it a suitable and hopeful name for a young girl who is coming to terms with the loss of her mother.

The Moon is also a place most ordinary people can’t reach. What goes on up there is incomprehensible to us. At some point in the story, we see Luna’s Mum depicted on the Moon, trapped in her own world and out of reach. People who have dealt with a suicidal loved one will be able to empathise with this.


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Luna as a Rabbit

While I was developing Luna, I played with the idea of using an animal for the main character, as you can see in the sketches below, but eventually decided against this idea. Suicide is a fathomless notion, whether you are a child or an adult. In this specific case, I felt that it was very important to show children (and their family) that they are not the only ones going through this. Therefore, I wanted to illustrate a representation of an ordinary family.luna rabbit 2

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Luna as a girl

Ever since that I made that decision, Luna’s look went through quite a few changes – from using different materials, which gave her  a different feel as a character, to different heights; from tall and gangling to the petite but feisty 6-year-old she is now.luna girllcollage

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Luna in 3D

I also made a 3D version of Luna, so I could play with light sources and shadows, and use photos I took of her as a reference for my illustrations.

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Luna’s Dress 

Luna’s dress, with its checked pattern, stayed the same throughout the process. It was inspired by a dress my Aunt Judith used to wear when she was around that age. The dress has appeared in several of my fine art pieces throughout the years, as you can see below, and finally found its destiny in this book.

luna dress

 

Luna’s Red Hat

Ironically, the thing I struggled drawing most was Luna’s red hat! It was either too small, too floppy, too big, too bonnet-y, too red, or not red enough, and even looked like a fire brigade hat or a UFO. You name it, I’ve drawn it, over and over again.

 luna red hat

 

Emmi Smid is a children’s book author and illustrator. She was born in the Netherlands but currently lives and works in Brighton, UK. Learn more about Luna’s Red Hat here.