The Teapot Trust

Kate Raf­ferty finds out more about the work of this char­ity, which pro­vides art ther­a­pists to help chil­dren in hos­pi­tal.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

Kate Raf­ferty finds out how the Trust helps chil­dren in hos­pi­tal

SHAR­ING a cup of tea and slice of cake with Laura Young feels like a mo­ment of calm in the mid­dle of the day. It cer­tainly is for Laura, as much of her life is now ded­i­cated to the Teapot Trust, a char­ity she es­tab­lished with her hus­band John in mem­ory of their daugh­ter, Ver­ity.

Ver­ity had chronic ill­nesses re­quir­ing reg­u­lar hos­pi­tal vis­its, and died aged just eight at the end of 2009. The Teapot Trust of­fers art ther­apy in hos­pi­tal wait­ing rooms to make life a lit­tle eas­ier for chil­dren like her.

Hos­pi­tal wait­ing rooms can be a mis­er­able and some­times fright­en­ing place for adults, so think how much more trau­matic they can be for chil­dren.

And when those chil­dren have a chronic ill­ness, they will as­so­ciate the ex­pe­ri­ence with ex­am­i­na­tions and per­haps even painful treat­ment. It’s lit­tle won­der they are re­luc­tant to go or are up­set when they ar­rive.

For doc­tors, as­sess­ing a con­di­tion is done more suc­cess­fully if the child is re­laxed and in the best pos­si­ble frame of mind. How­ever, there’s a lim­ited amount of time to achieve that once the con­sul­ta­tion has be­gun.

This was a prob­lem faced by Laura and John.

“Ver­ity was di­ag­nosed with lu­pus at the age of three and from the be­gin­ning hated blood tests and par­tic­u­larly nee­dles. We had to be so care­ful when we told her about an ap­point­ment be­cause she would run and hide and be­come so dis­tressed. She didn’t re­alise she was ill. In her mind she was go­ing to this place and be­ing phys­i­cally as­saulted.”

Of course, no-one knows what a child needs more than a mother and Laura re­called how fond Ver­ity was of one of her babysit­ters. Christina was an art stu­dent and when she sat with Ver­ity and drew pic­tures, the lit­tle girl be­came calmer and more con­tent.

IASKED Christina if she could do the same at the hos­pi­tal, and sud­denly we could say that we were go­ing to see Christina to draw pic­tures. It re­ally made a dif­fer­ence and struck a chord with her and it oc­curred to me that if it helped Ver­ity, how many other chil­dren could it help?” Laura ex­plains. “We re­searched art ther­apy and won­dered how we could get an art ther­a­pist ded­i­cated to the Sick Kids Hos­pi­tal in Ed­in­burgh.”

Af­ter Ver­ity passed away, John and Laura had a col­lec­tion to es­tab­lish an or­gan­i­sa­tion that could do that.

“Apart from look­ing af­ter my other two daugh­ters, Nina and Isla, I threw my­self into re­search, just to make sure we wouldn’t be repli­cat­ing the work be­ing done by any other char­ity. If we were, we could do­nate the money to them.”

But there was no other char­ity work­ing in the same field, and the Teapot Trust was born in 2010. Since then it has had a huge in­flu­ence across the coun­try.

The first Teapot Trust art ther­a­pist was at Ed­in­burgh Sick Kids, as Ver­ity lived in Gul­lane, East Loth­ian, but then Glas­gow, Dundee, Aberdeen, In­ver­ness and the chil­dren’s hos­pice, Rachel House, were all pro­vided with art ther­apy for chil­dren.

The Trust was also ap­proached by Dr Clarissa Pilk­ing­ton, Con­sul­tant in Ado­les­cent and Pae­di­atric Rheuma­tol­ogy at Great Or­mond Street Hos­pi­tal, who asked if the Teapot Trust could have a pres­ence there – and now it does.

The ser­vices have de­vel­oped from draw­ing one-to-one, as Laura ex­plains.

“We sup­port and sup­ply art ther­a­pists for chil­dren with longert­erm health con­di­tions. That might be

can­cer, but we pre­dom­i­nantly help chil­dren with a rheuma­to­log­i­cal dis­ease and those con­di­tions where chil­dren will never be cured.

Our Art Ther­a­pists work within the Out Pa­tient’s Depart­ment at a ta­ble crammed full of art ma­te­ri­als which the chil­dren can choose from. The chil­dren can also model with clay, which is good for chil­dren with arthri­tis be­cause rolling the clay is great for work­ing the hands – it’s phys­io­ther­apy with­out them know­ing it.”

The Trust also works one-toone with chil­dren who are strug­gling with med­i­ca­tion and do­ing badly at school. There’s also a higher in­stance of bul­ly­ing among chil­dren with chronic health con­di­tions, where other chil­dren don’t un­der­stand why they have time off school and why al­lowances are some­times made.

“They might be on some re­ally nasty drugs, but be­cause they haven’t lost their hair, they don’t look very dif­fer­ent and other chil­dren don’t un­der­stand,” Laura says.

The hos­pi­tals were ini­tially quite ner­vous of what art ther­apy would mean, and it did take Laura’s tenac­ity to con­vince them of the ben­e­fits.

“I think they thought it might be messy and weren’t quite sure of how it would work, but now that we are in place, they don’t ever want us to leave!”

The art ther­a­pists have all done post­grad­u­ates in art psy­chother­apy. The Teapot Trust in­sists that they must have had three years’ ex­pe­ri­ence with chil­dren post qual­i­fi­ca­tion, so they are all highly qual­i­fied peo­ple.

The suc­cess of the Teapot Trust means there are now two parts to its work – the art ther­apy and, of course, the fund-rais­ing to keep the work go­ing.

“We have a clin­i­cal man­ager now to en­sure that ev­ery­thing is per­form­ing cor­rectly clin­i­cally and that ev­ery ther­a­pist has ap­pro­pri­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“We know that we can have real life-chang­ing ef­fects on the chil­dren with one-to-one ther­apy which is done in eight-week blocks but con­tin­ues for as long as the child needs,” Laura ex­plains.

“The great thing is they don’t need to be ac­com­plished at art. It’s all about ex­pres­sion, mak­ing a mark, and that can be done though dots and dashes. We’re not look­ing to im­prove abil­ity. It’s about com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which can be dif­fi­cult to do ver­bally.”

THERE are chil­dren who need to travel large dis­tances for reg­u­lar hos­pi­tal ap­point­ments, which means tak­ing a lot of time off school. The art ther­apy doesn’t just help to keep them calm, mak­ing life eas­ier for the child, par­ents, and med­i­cal staff, it also nor­malises life for them and pro­vides a sense of pos­i­tive con­ti­nu­ity.

“The chil­dren also bond through the ther­apy,” Laura adds. “It’s easy to feel that you’re the only one who is hav­ing to come to hos­pi­tal like this, be ex­am­ined and be sub­jected to nee­dles and treat­ments, but when they work with other chil­dren, they learn that they’re not alone and meet chil­dren that they have much in com­mon with.

“It also means that chil­dren aren’t star­ing into phone or tablet screens – they can’t get lost in their own thoughts.

“Doc­tors know that they can do their job much more easily, and the chil­dren know they’re in a safe place. Some­times the chil­dren bring in a pic­ture or an an­i­mal that they have made of clay into the con­sult­ing room and it makes start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion so much eas­ier for ev­ery­one.”

Fund-rais­ing is para­mount, of course, but there have been many orig­i­nal ideas. Re­cently the Teapot Trust made a con­nec­tion with the pop­u­lar Ed­in­burgh Yarn Fes­ti­val. An en­thu­si­as­tic sup­porter of the Teapot Trust knit­ted tea cosies that were sold there to raise funds for the char­ity.

Ah, yes, teapots. I al­most for­got to ask where the name came from.

“The name comes from Ver­ity and her con­nec­tion with tea par­ties,” Laura ex­plains. “Ver­ity had to drink a cer­tain amount of fluid af­ter her med­i­ca­tion, but she was ex­tremely re­luc­tant, would get very cross and just refuse. To en­cour­age her, we would take out my hus­band’s granny’s tea set and set up a tea party with her ted­dies.

“We’d say, ‘Oh, well, if you don’t want to drink, the ted­dies will have a tea party with­out you’. She came round quite quickly then!

“Later, when her friends came to visit and they were a bit un­sure of what to do as she couldn’t play, we would have tea par­ties again. The tea party has be­come such a huge part of our lives now and re­ally, we hope that what we are of­fer­ing is some­thing that soothes and re­laxes, like a good cup of tea.”

Want To Know More?

For in­for­ma­tion or to do­nate, visit or write to Teapot Trust, Cocken­zie Busi­ness Cen­tre, Ed­in­burgh Road, Cocken­zie EH32 0XL.

Laura and a young hos­pi­tal vis­i­tor.

Laura with Sara Cox at Great Or­mond Street Hos­pi­tal.

The Young fam­ily are al­ways fund-rais­ing.

A young­ster en­joy­ing the art ta­ble.

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