How storytelling helps sick kids cope
There is power in telling a personal story. For a handful of young patients with chronic health issues, writing and telling their stories proved to be transformative at Advocate Children’s Hospital-Park Ridge.
It was all thanks to a partnership with Tellin’ Tales Theatre of Chicago. Tellin’ Tales is on a mission to shatter barriers between the disabled and able-bodied world. Their innovative theatre productions help the disabled promote understanding and acceptance. Based on their model’s success in a theatre, leaders wondered about bringing it to a children’s hospital. Could storytelling help children challenged by illness? Could it give them a positive outlet for expressing themselves? Could it promote healing and coping skills?
Based upon the pilot program they developed, the answer is definitely yes. For Zofia, Yusef, Eugene and Mateo, young children who regularly require pediatric therapies at the hospital, participating in a Tellin’ Tales workshop was incredibly therapeutic. The kids spent a few weeks developing their own personal story. But all stories had similarities—each was self-revealing, honest and eye-opening.
“I got to share my feelings – say things I haven’t shared with other friends,” says 10-year-old Mateo, whose physical disabilities have sometimes been tough. 10-year-old Yusef agreed. “It helped me express feelings about private stuff; it was nice to see that other kids have problems, too.”
Each child rose to tell their story for all of the families gathered on the last night of the program.
“It was great seeing the kids progress over the weeks,” says Lindsay Porter, the Tellin’ Tales facilitator. “Over just a few short weeks, I saw them gain confidence, show humor, come out of their shell and bond.”
“The children were so very supportive of each other,” adds Margarita Redmond, a pediatric occupational therapist and coordinator of education activities at Pediatric Therapies at Advocate Children’s Hospital. It was Redmond who first saw the potential after seeing a Tellin’ Tales production.
“These children showed such compassion for each other. They were so honest and shared such personal feelings. They realized they are not alone in their struggles.”
There is bound to be more storytelling. On the final night, the kids were quickly scheduling “play dates” before saying goodbye to their new friends.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!