Creswick Fellowship Tour – Sandhill Childhood Development Centre

shutterstock_92102072

I spent the week of May 12 -16 with the staff and residents at Sandhill Child Development Center in New Mexico.  “Sandhill Child Development Center is a residential program for children ages 5 to 13 at admission, who are experiencing significant difficulties functioning in their current home, school or community due to an inability to regulate their emotional states. By repairing a child’s trust in care and adult guidance, Sandhill gives the child the tools necessary to proceed with a healthy and bright future. Sandhill Child Development Center emphasizes a relationally-based clinical approach that is grounded in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) developed by Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and The ChildTrauma Academy.” Sandhill takes children from all over the United States.

shutterstock_155773847

As one of the ChildTrauma Academy’s initial partner certification sites there was no question about visiting Sandhill. Having been at the implementation of neurodevelopmentally informed interventions in their residential treatment for some time now, I wanted to see for myself where they were up to and what discoveries they had made.

Interventions include:

  • Individual weekly therapy for the child
  • Family therapy
  • Parent training sessions
  • Modelling sessions/co-parenting on site
  • EMDR
  • Animal Assisted Interventions
  • Nutrition – provision of a “brain friendly” diet which strives to use many organic and whole foods.
  • Exercise and recreation – including sports, team building, martial arts and other exercise based activities.
  • Service Learning via voluntary interaction in the community
  • Neurofeedback
  • Wilderness Adventure Therapy.
  • Daily education

All of this provided on site or as part of the one program! Sandhill has capacity for up to 30 children and adolescents at any given time and their average length of stay is around 18 months. Read more about Sandhill Child Development Center here, at Chelle Taylor’s blog My Creswick Fellowship Tour

Edited version of a post written by: Michelle (Chelle) Taylor, Clinical Psychologist and NMT Consultant, Take Two Program

BSCI Fellow, Richard Rose

It is great to b4_RichardRosee back in Melbourne with colleagues at the Berry Street Childhood Institute.

Since last October, we have thought about the potential of life story work with traumatised children as a service for young people as well as the need to consider new thinking and assessments for outcome research.

I am looking forward to meeting with friends and making new contacts as I travel eastwards to present with SAL Consulting in Sydney and Churches for Christ in Brisbane and Townsville. These events will be followed by life story presentations in Hobart and Melbourne for colleagues interested in this effective approach with traumatised children.

When working with young people and their carers, mainly around therapeutic life story, we share stories and learn about each other. In the same way, as a Fellow of Berry Street Childhood Institute, sharing thoughts and sharing approaches is always an essential ingredient to developing best practice… to meet and learn from those attending presentations and engaging within the workshop approach creates a perfect platform for theoretical and practice advancement.

IMG_1161

This is my sixth year of sharing practice with organisations in Australia and my fourth with Berry Street (the last two years with Berry Street Childhood Institute). On this visit I have the opportunity to reflect on therapeutic care models in international settings that I have involvement with. In particular, how these therapeutic approaches can be incorporated within the service delivery for children and young people placed in out-of-home and home-based care at Berry Street.

Currently I am working with several projects in countries across the world on therapeutic interventions and evaluation processes. While in Melbourne, there is time to consider how we develop and introduce new thinking and new approaches to promote the best services for children and young people… watch this space!

Post written by: Richard Rose, Fellow, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Editor’s note: Register Now to attend Richard’s training in Hobart and Melbourne.

Berry Street Education – Pt. 3

Pt 3 in a three part series on Berry Street Education

Our knowledge about trauma’s shutterstock_160640774consequence on the neurodevelopment of children helps us when our young people become heightened, leading to flight, fight, or freeze behaviour.

Dr Bruce Perry has informed our work at Berry Street. Moving beyond the medical model, we work with Dr Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (and his emerging Neurosequential Model of Education) as a structure for understanding the neurobiological development of children who have histories of threat, neglect, humiliation, degradation, deprivation, chaos, and violence.

We are building upon the Berry Street Model of Education, which encompasses nine domains of our trauma-informed education, such as the importance of the integration of clinical, welfare approaches, building positive relationships, developing community/pathway linkages, etc. Teens in library

Significantly, Berry Street has a commitment to teaching children in mainstream settings through the collaborative creation of the Child Safety Commissioner’s program: Calmer Classrooms.

 

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning.

Berry Street Education – Pt. 2

Pt 2 in a series on Berry Street Education

Teens in class

Building upon the foundation of academic rigour and our teachers’ curriculum design for deep-understanding, we turn our focus toward non-cognitive skills.

We define these skills as the performance capacities necessary to support persistent, resilient, growth-mindsets of learning.  Research tells us that self-regulation is a better predictor of success than IQ.  Developing the strengths of courage, gratitude, kindness, and curiosity hold equal importance as learning literacy decoding skills.

We hold the firm belief that Berry Street can be an innovative contributor to the education for our most vulnerable students by integrating our understanding of trauma’s effect on neurodevelopment and evidence-based practice from positive psychology, mindfulness and well-being.

Four key drivers:

1.             Staff well-being and staff self-learning:  Staff must have an in-depth understanding of well-being and working from a strengths-based perspective.  How can staff best cultivate positive emotion and character strengths to be the best teachers/mentors for our students?

2.             Dual-purpose, implicit curriculum:  We seek to take our academic curriculum and revision it through a “dual-purpose lens.”  How will we teach both a literacy objective and a lesson on persevering in the face of obstacles at the same time? Every lesson has the potential to teach cognitive skill and character strength.Teen studying

3.             Explicit and specific character learning:  We believe that in addition to a dual-purpose curriculum, there are specific time-tabled ways to teach non-cognitive skills and through our own practice and refine these opportunities throughout the school day.  (Ex: Sessions that incorporate our knowledge from therapeutic movement, martial arts, creative arts, and personal development / psycho-education curriculum)

4.             Relationship based resiliency:  Our teachers know that relationship is key to our student’s emotional-safety required for learning.  How can we nourish relationships to increase our students’ hope for their own futures by understanding of non-cognitive skills?

 

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning. 

Berry Street Education – Pt. 1

Pt 1 in a series on Berry Street Education 

StudyingBerry Street Education seeks to:

  • Advance models of secondary schools to meet the needs of educationally disadvantaged / disengaged young people with a history of trauma, abuse or neglect.
  • Bring together three fields of research:

o   trauma-informed

o   neurodevelopmental

o   positive psychology/education, uniting them in a strong culture of academic achievement.

  • Inform the teaching practice of vulnerable children through this integrated approach in a continuum of school settings.

Cognitive & Non-Cognitive Skills at the Berry Street School:  CHARACTER COUNTS

At Berry Street, our knowledge of trauma’s impact on our students’ development guides our education program design. We seek to understand and undertake a bold next step to our curriculum development and school culture: the integration of our knowledge of trauma’s impact on neurodevelopment along with the best practices around the sciences of well-being, human flourishing and positive psychology.

Our students come to us with histories of education neglect, substance abuse, generational trauma, and a great deal of personal struggle.  We seek to create dual-purpose educational experiences: building both cognitive skills and strengths-based resilience.

We know that for our Berry Street students to succeed in school, in transitional career pathways and beyond, we must teach a mosaic of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills.   We define cognitive skills as the skills necessary to understand and process information—the foundational academic skills for literacy, maths, inquiry-based learning, vocational knowledge and electronic media.

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning. 

A Simple But Radical Approach to Ending Entrenched Disadvantage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“While we are the lucky country, it’s not lucky for everyone,” David James, General manager of Children’s Ground.

After 20 years working with communities facing the reality of sustained socio-economic disadvantage in remote areas, it was found that things had not improved; rather they had worsened…and probably wouldn’t improve.

This called for a complete rethinking of how to end entrenched disadvantage. This approach started with thinking about the needs of the community and ended with the building of the Children’s Ground platform.

Children’s Ground is a set of ideas and steps that can be implemented from within the community as opposed to being imposed upon it. It aims for families and communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage to realise their aspirations for the next generation of children – to be free from trauma and suffering. If this feels like a big commitment, that’s because it is!

This is a preventative program and a huge part of its success is starting early, even before the birth of the child. This commitment gives the child the best possible start at life and then this child is supported by the Children’s Ground platform for twenty-five years.

David JamesWithin this time, the platform places focus on the child first, then the family and the community as a whole, whilst still being implemented from within the community. This bottom-up model for community led action is perhaps the biggest achievement of Children’s Ground.

It allows for deeper engagement and builds a relationship with a generation who can pass information and knowledge on to future generations.

The Children’s Ground platform is currently being used in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and West Arnhem Land. Here the platform was offered to the community with no strings attached and no further communication with Children’s Ground if the community didn’t seek it.

This giving up of ownership is was makes for the community led success of this project.

For more information on the approach please visit their website: http://www.childrensground.org.au/ 

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Children’s voices & the power of an image: exploring ways in which children let us know of difficult life experiences

Children's Voices and the Power of an ImageTwo staff from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne’s Gatehouse Centre For The Assessment & Treatment Of Child Abuse and Trauma, Mary Raftopolos (Psychologist) and Olivia Dwyer (Art Therapist & Child Psychotherapist)  focused on how children communicate their inner-world through art therapy.

Art therapy is generally divided into two concepts:

  • art as therapy, as a cathartic process ( for the purification and/or purging of emotions); and,
  • art in therapy, as art made in the context of psychotherapy.

Regardless, emphasis is placed on the process, not so much the final product.

Images and artwork produced by children who have suffered family abuse and breakdown were displayed to the audience, and we were challenged to consider how we experience and interpret these images.

These images included paintings, drawings and Sandplay Therapy that children, who typically are unable to verbally express, use to convey their inner world.

Sandplay Therapy involves the child making a picture in a tray of sand, and without any further direction, allowing the therapist to observe the process in which the child forms the art piece. Miniatures are chosen as they create an image/world in the sand.

Many of the themes conveyed in the featured pieces of art included:

  • Self regulation (fences, police, natural boundaries),
  • Poor relationships,
  • Fear,
  • Chaos,
  • Growth,
  • Containment,
  • Journey,
  • New beginnings,
  • Hiding treasure/finding treasure,
  • Gathering of energy,
  • Or, celebrations/rituals.

Mary and Olivia concluded the workshop with some of the positive results from art therapy over time, including the process being used as a tool of catharsis, in addition to allowing children to convey thoughts and feelings they would otherwise not be able to verbally.

Art Therapy & Sandplay have indeed proved wonderful, non-intrusive ways of working with children who have experienced trauma and/or neglect.

Blog by: SYN Media blogger