Young Audiences had the honor of presenting at the Defending Childhood training conference on September 23rd. The topic was “Together, We Have the Power to Stop Violence.” The purpose of the conference is to ensure that children are protected and healed from exposure to violence.
Why would Young Audiences, an arts education organization, be invited to speak at the Defending Childhood conference?
To answer that question, we invite you to read the following comments presented at the conference by Kristan Rothman, Special Projects Manager at Young Audiences:
Young Audiences is not a social service organization. We do not have social workers or therapists on our staff. We do not only seek to serve disadvantaged or at-risk populations. Those are not our areas of expertise.
However, we ARE experts at the arts. We are skilled at working with partners to find solutions for whatever issues they are trying to address. We believe that the arts are for everyone. That the arts are powerful and effective tools which break through social, emotional, and physical barriers that may separate people from learning, healing, and connecting with one another.
Children may experience trauma for a variety of reasons. Death of a parent or sibling, natural disaster, loss of their home, etc. And in many cases, children may be subjected to ongoing forms of trauma like neglect, physical and emotional abuse, and multiple changes in foster care settings.
The arts are nothing but sensory. They are a means of communicating, often without the need for language, allowing children to express what they experienced in the way they first experienced it – through touch, sound, and images. Because the arts are limitless, and because there are no wrong answers, they can be used at any developmental level to build relationships between children and adults and open the lines of nonverbal communication. Everyone can find success in the arts, regardless of their circumstances, and finding that success can create hope and promote self-confidence; two elements absolutely necessary for building resilience. Using a combination of creative interventions and developmentally appropriate psychotherapy can be a first step in moving a traumatized child along a continuum of healing.
As children progress from relying on the art forms that do not require verbal communication, they can be engaged in creative interventions such as poetry, storytelling, and songwriting.
Despite all our planning, there are often times when we have little or no information about the background and experiences of the children we’re serving. But we know that the arts can empower children by teaching them alternate methods of expressing themselves.
Young Audiences theater artist Jimmie Woody and Sonia Ferencik, LISW-S, MSSA, Child Trauma Services Coordinator, Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center spoke to attendees about how the arts are currently being used to reduce trauma, build resilience, and promote healing. Two dance performances titled Chaos and Stuttering were presented by the Young Audiences ArtWorks Dance Apprentices. In addition, Young Audiences presented two digital stories created by students that showed how that art form can be used as a way for children to express their experiences.