December 2018 conference: Fostering Communication and Creativity following Brain Injury

What a wonderful way to end another excellent year of ABIL conferences and great to see so many people attending what turned out to be a most enjoyable afternoon.

Our last conference of 2018 – ‘Fostering Communication and Creativity following Brain Injury’- provided some wonderful insights and examples of different ways to approach these challenges [see programme here ABIL Programme – 04 12 18 – Communication and Creativity following Brain Injury]. Unfortunately, Dr Sylvia Taylor-Goh was unable to make her presentation, but we look forward to welcoming her another time.

Shaun Caton the Art Curator and Programme Manager from the Homerton gave us a flavour of the work he has been involved in with patients after a brain injury spanning over 25 years, during which he had helped around 800 artists! It must have been incredibly difficult to draw this down into a 25 minute presentation and probably very sensibly Shaun did not attempt to provide a one minute per year approach opting instead to take us through a visual journey of art work carried out with patients at the RNRU (Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit) – both individually and on groups, and using all manner of materials – and linked the benefits of collaboration, imagination and also physical work (benefitting upper limb and manual dexterity problems). He also talked about the challenges of short attention span, working on short and long-term projects and working at a pace that enabled outcomes that pleased the artist. An interesting and often amusing talk and it was interesting to recall how Shaun had explained at the beginning that he had fallen into this more by default than design! Shaun’s presentation can be downloaded here 25YEARS_OF_ART_BRAIN_INJURIES – Shaun Caton

A fascinating insight into the world of Art Psychotherapy was provided by Poppy Stevens and supported by Hannah Lowe, both from Barts. Poppy talked about the various approaches to Psychotherapy and how Art Psychotherapy uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Art therapy was established at Barts f 25 years ago and is now much more ‘embedded’ there. It is funded by the Corinne Burton Memorial Trust, which is currently the only art therapy funding for Oncology. Poppy also talked about how challenging it can be as an Art Therapist in a clinical setting and focused on a case study of a cancer patient, with subsequent ABI, who didn’t recognise himself anymore, had low mood and was not particularly interested in engaging. The loss of identity and loss of language was palpable and he felt trapped. There was also loss of speech and language ability and the use of the right hand side of his body. However through many art therapy sessions, he found ways to express himself and one particular image he had created of himself on a conveyor belt – recognising his lack of real choice – was very powerful. The sessions also facilitated his benefitting from physiotherapy and pain relief. By the end, he acknowledged and recognised the value of the sessions in enabling him to look at his situation and regain some agency and control. The relationship with the art therapist was also a key factor in the whole process. Hannah emphasised the importance of multidisciplinary working in these situations. Part of their presentation can be downloaded here Uncertain identity

Last, but certainly not least, we welcomed Emily White and Elizabeth Nightingale from Chiltern Music. They took us on a wonderful journey which incorporated the work and approach of Neurologic Music Therapy plus an inter-active session with the audience! Music therapy is thought to help build new neural networks. It connects with social interaction skills and , when we make music, it affects us in many ways and helps with attention, recall and mood amongst many other things. They talked about how much creative potential people still have and how neurological techniques and also adaptive equipment, where required, is able to support this. Music is a tool as well as enjoyment. The process begins with an individual assessment and may often work on something non-musical at the start. Some video footage was shared showing some of the approaches of their work and their person-centred approach. It was wonderful to see the engagement and enjoyment. The interactive session with delegates was fun, if not a little challenging for some (you know who you are!) and enthusiasm and obvious love for the work came across in wave after wave. [Their presentation can be downloaded here Chiltern Music]. It was a great way to end the conference and a perfect way to start the festive season!

ABIL would like to say a big thank you to all our presenters and to all our delegates for making this an enjoyable afternoon to be a part of. As always, we would not be able to put these conferences on with the wonderful support from Irwin Mitchell. Thank you!

Tony Hart – Chair of ABIL

Shaun Caton & Tony Hart 

Poppy Stevens

Emily White & Elizabeth Nightingale

Audience members