Children, Trauma, and the Arts

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Soon after the devastating flooding in Vermont from Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011, the Arts Bus Project joined a team of pediatricians and mental health care professionals attending to children traumatized by loss and disruption – and has been working with children in three affected towns ever since.   Using drawing, poetry, journaling, theater production and the creation of worry dolls and accordion books, the Arts Bus staff encouraged kids to access and express feelings and fears associated with the storm and its aftermath. Lou DiNicola, Gifford Hospital pediatrician and president of the Vermont Chapter of the American Pediatrics Association, recalls: “When the Arts Bus Project staff showed us the art work and journal writing kids were doing to tell their Irene stories, and described how this process of expression was having such a profound therapeutic effect, I thought:  I’ve got to let my colleagues around the state know what’s happening here.  If we ever have a disaster like Irene again, and we probably will, it’s not just the health care professionals who should come to the aid of children.  We should be aware of the curative power of the  arts  and  should  call  on  our artists as essential disaster workers.”

In 2013, in partnership with the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and with support from the national AAP, The Arts Bus Project has published a book on children, trauma and the arts and has been distributed to pediatricians, family practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, arts leaders, and disaster relief coordinators in the state. The book makes clear how important, and how uniquely effective, the arts can be in responding to the need children have to express themselves and find a creative healing path when they’re hit with an experience like Irene.

Vermont Public Radio (VPR) invited Arts Bus director Cynthia Sandusky to discuss Children, Trauma and the Arts, as part of their 2-year anniversary coverage of Tropical Storm Irene.  Follow this link and hear the entire interview:  http://digital.vpr.net/post/group-helps-kids-overcome-trauma-through-arts