Friday December 7, 2007
By LOOI SUE-CHERN
British creative arts therapist Dr Sue Jennings was recently in the state to share her expertise in incorporating creative arts in teaching children with special needs, abused children and stroke victims.
The pioneer in dramatherapy and playtherapy said non-verbal methods like art, dance, music and play, could provide a different therapeutic medium to help people with special needs, reaching areas that other methods could not.
“Hand movements during body massages that imitate elements like pouring rain, lighting, the sun and the rainbow could help stimulate the imagination of autistic children,” said the 69-year-old.
In her work, Dr Jennings also uses animal hand puppets to help autistic children sort out social and personal difficulties.
“The children relate better to the puppets. Eye contact becomes a non-issue. They can talk and whisper to them and play, feeling safer and more comfortable,” she explained.
Dr Jennings was speaking at a recent creative arts therapy workshop at the Caring Society Complex co-organised by the Bureau of Learning Difficulties (BOLD) and Disted-Stamford College.
The world renowned therapist and author was also in Malaysia to visit an orang asli village west of Gua Musang in the Kelantan rainforest.
She had spent two years living in the village with her three children, researching on the orang asli's unique way of life, culture and performing arts, for her doctoral studies in the mid-1970s.
“I was intrigued by their child rearing ways. Parents never hit their children there.
“Their creative activities like dances were part of healing processes. They dance to ward off illnesses and to keep their village strong,” she said, recalling how enriching the experience was for her and her children,
She said she was looking forward to seeing the midwife who had adopted her during her stay in the village after almost 20 years.
Retired from her hospital, clinic, private practice and university work since last year, Dr Jennings is now busy writing more books and conducting talks around the world.
“I discover new things everyday. The creativity and potential shown by people with disabilities are so intriguing,” she said, adding that she might return to Malaysia next year to work with the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM).
“I am also planning to help start a creative arts therapy training programme in Penang. There are many possibilities. If things go well, Malaysia could be my second home after Romania,” she said.
Posted by Ong Si Li, T3