Filling a Need (Horizon Air article, part 2)
Horizon Air, by Scott Driscoll, December 2006
The need for art-therapy books such as Oodles of Doodles and Chill & Spill is great, says Steffanie Lorig, executive director of Art with Heart.
She notes that at any given time, up to 17 million children in the United States are experiencing special healthcare needs, or chronic illnesses and disabilities, according to a report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
In addition, evidence compiled by the World Health Organization and reported by the U.S. Public Health Service in 2000 indicates that by the year 2020, childhood neuropsychiatric disorders will rise by more than 50 percent worldwide to become one of the top five causes of death, disease and disability in children.
There is a direct negative correlation between stress and brain development as well as stress and physical wellness, Lorig says. “Children need a safe way to communicate their fears, and often the best way to cope can be found in the trappings of childhood: crayons, paper, paint, clay.”
A four-month study of oncology patients at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, reported in January 2006, showed that eight of nine symptoms related to pain and anxiety were significantly reduced as a result of art therapy. Improvements included relief from pain, tiredness, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, lack of appetite, lack of a sense of well-being, and shortness of breath. The only symptom not decreased was nausea. The report concluded: “Art therapy provides distraction that allows patients to focus on something positive instead of their health for a time, and it also gives patients something they can control.”
Institutions and clinicians using Art with Heart’s Oodles of Doodles and Chill & Spill books report that the books provide effective art therapy.
In a January 2006 Art with Heart survey of Child Life specialists using Oodles of Doodles to help ill children in hospitals in 12 states – including Washington and California– as well as in Edmonton, Alberta, and Toronto, 78 percent of the specialists reported that the children were more engaged, and 39 percent said the book made the children happy. Fifty-eight percent said the book reduced patient anxiety, and 90 percent reported that it helped keep the kids active.
In February 2006, Art with Heart surveyed counselors and mental-health professionals in six U.S. states, including Washington, and in Ontario, Canada, who had given a total of 796 Chill & Spill journals to teens considered “hard to communicate with” and “anxious.” Twenty-five percent reported that the teens they worked with were happier, and 38 percent said the teens were easier to communicate with.
This is significant improvement, Lorig says, considering that 67 percent of the teens given the book had been expelled from school and were considered to have significant behavioral problems. Thirty-eight percent of the survey participants said the book reduced symptoms of depression; 50 percent said it increased the teens’ personal insights; and 75 percent said it allowed for greater expression of self.
“Chill & Spill and Oodles are making a difference in the mental health of children and teens across North America,” says Lorig. “That’s important, because our children’s mental health will have effects that reach into their adulthood. Helping them now will impact their future in a positive way.”