Thursday, 5 February 2015

Calico Dolls - A process of play

by Maree Matthews and Gerry Silk 
Kiwanis International, 1994.

What are calico dolls and who makes them?

Calico dolls are simple in shape and made with plain fabric. The dolls are without features and they are plumply stuffed with polyester fibrefill, so they are lightweight. They are made in a range of skin tones. Children draw with textas or felt tip pens on plain calico giving personality and so each doll is unique. Since 1993 over 60,000 dolls have been made for children in hospital. Most of the dolls are made by volunteers and in the past Girl Guides have made calico dolls for AWCH in Sydney.

Where and how are they used?

Calico dolls are used to help children in healthcaresettings: in hospital emergency departments, radiology departments, routine healthcare admissions and when children are transported between healthcare settings. Calico dolls are also used in community settings by psychologists and child life therapists.

Health professionals such as child life therapists and nurses use the dolls with role play to help children, particularly younger children who are not abstract thinkers.  The dolls help prepare children for common medical procedures such as IV insertion, suturing, blood tests, insertion of naso-gastic tubes, changing dressings, manipulation and plastering of fractures under local anaesthetic and  X-rays

Calico dolls have been used to help transition children to hospital and medical procedures. The play is therapeutic because it gives children permission to express themselves. The role play helps children by providing them with emotional support when they are in unfamiliar healthcare places and having unfamiliar experiences.  

She coloured in the doll, giving it a happy face and a red line down its right leg which she explained as “the dolly’s sore leg”.

The dolls are also known as trauma dolls and can provide a positive way of coping, reducing stress and trauma. Children become empowered because through doll play they know more about what will happen to them and they can express themselves. Through parallel play they can tell family, friends and health professionals about what is happening to them and how they feel. How the doll is used is up to each child, their personality and developmental stage. Some children will focus on the doll as a means of gathering information and other children will use the doll as a tool for self-expression as well as understanding.

Calico dolls : a process of play is a great book for introducing health professionals and students to the value of calico dolls and their uses. Vignettes illustrate some of the uses, such as for diversion from pain, discomfort, anxiety and boredom. Other uses are for expression of feelings, as preparation for painful procedures, when working with siblings, for children who do not speak English, in bereavement care and for parent involvement. The book also explains how health professionals can make doll play a successful experience as well as how to talk to children in health care settings.

Calico dolls: a process of play is available for loan from the AWCH Library. The AWCH office also has a doll pattern for people who would like to make one.

Reviewed by:
Jillian Rattray
AWCH Librarian
February 2015

Monday, 17 November 2014

Family focus - talking together about parental depression & anxiety

Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) and Beyondblue, DVD

Family focus is a DVD divided into two sections: adults and children. The children’s section has a video featuring two young women who have parents living with mental illness and helpful resources including the Koolta help music video.

For adults, there are two short films to view, the first one is entitled Karl’s story and the second Christina’s story. Both look at the impact of a parent’s mental illness on families and on children.

Karl’s Story shows how prevalent depression is for men in a rural setting. An important message is to identify and encourage people to get help and not dismiss what they are experiencing.  This film is valuable because it shows families as a unit and the benefit of supporting parents for the health and wellbeing of children.

The second film Christina’s story, is about anxiety. Christina, a mother of two primary school children Ella and Jason, is overwhelmed living with anxiety. What this film makes clear, is that children need to be included in discussions and understandings about their parent’s mental illness and know it is not their fault.

The Children’s section features Amy and Jess, who are young women who have parents with a mental illness. They emphasise facts about mental illness and messages such as, we all have days when we are sad but when people are so sad it is “hard to do everyday things, this kind of worry is called anxiety”.  Kids need to know that when parents live with anxiety or depression, it is not their fault. The “most important thing to do is to keep on being a kid” with time to do enjoyable things. It is tough for the person who is unwell but also for their children. Talking about it as a family can be really helpful.  Also in the children’s section of the DVD is Koolta’s rapping about parent’s mental health to help kids remember key messages.  This V-Clip can be viewed on youtube.

Find more fun youtube clips with key messages on what kids need to know on the COPMI website, under the kids, teens and young adults page. Plenty of other useful resources for families and health professionals are found on the COPMI website, including participation strategies on how to involve both youth and adults in mental health.

The AWCH library also holds books for health professionals such as Children caring for parents with mental illness: perspectives of young carers, parents and professionals and Children of parents with mental illness edited by Vicki Cowling.

Review by: Jillian Rattray
AWCH Librarian -
November 2014