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Therapeutic Crochet for Children by Debra Lea, Carma Cervetti, and Elizabeth Hall

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This is Marie from Underground Crafter, and I'm so pleased to share a guest post by CGOA members, Debra Lea, Carma Cervetti, and Elizabeth Hall, about therapeutic crochet for children in a residential facility. Do you have a story to share about how crochet is helping in your community? Feel free to reach out to me through my website.

Therapeutic Crochet for Children

As you come down the stairs you hear children laughing.  Cries of “I want yellow” mingle with “Do I need a bigger hook”.  You just know it’s a room full of kids having a great time with yarn...And today it is.  This room is at KidsTLC in Olathe, Kansas and these children are residents.  Some have been here for a very long time, some have just arrived.  All of them come with issues severe enough to require residential treatment.  But today they are just kids having fun learning how to crochet.
KidsTLC provides children with a continuum of care through innovative and successful psychiatric treatment, outreach to homeless teens, outpatient behavioral health, autism and parent support programs. Services are focused on evidence-based therapies and trauma-informed care, with a strong emphasis on family wellness and preserving the family unit.

KidsTLC continues to respond to the growing needs of children in the Kansas City Metro area by adding critically needed services that fill community gaps and alleviate wait times for families to receive care. Programs help children heal on all levels through innovative therapeutic treatment philosophies; chaplaincy services; expressive therapies such as art, play and music therapy; and through a wealth of opportunities to improve the physical health of clients including the movement towards integrating our mental health services with local health clinics that provide physical health services, increased nutrition/wellness education, and opportunities for physical exercise.

KidsTLC was founded in 1972 by the Johnson County Young Matrons to fulfill an unmet need for an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Over the years, KidsTLC’s mission has expanded as we have stepped forward to further help children and youth in crisis. From its beginning, KidsTLC has responded to community needs by implementing new programs to meet them. The staff are always looking at new treatment modalities and methods that will help their clients heal and be able to go home.  About 2 years ago, they thought they might try crochet.

Crochet or yarn crafting, as research refers to it, provides many benefits to children and young adults who have experienced trauma. Yarn crafting relieves depression, reduces anxiety, projects build self-esteem, builds a sense of community and reduces stress. For KidsTLC clients, the connections and successes developed with yarn crafting prepare a brain significantly impacted by trauma for trust and positive relationships which open the door for healing and hope for the future.

This is where Carma and I come into this story.  My son, who is a nurse at KidsTLC, called and asked if I’d like to come teach their children.  I said yes almost before he quit talking.  I would work closely with Elizabeth Hall, Director of Community Resources, and she remains our champion in all things fiber.  Children come to crochet club with no labels, no diagnosis.  They come as children learning to crochet.  Elizabeth and the unit staff who accompany the children to Crochet Club handle any clinical matters that arise.  They help the children maintain their composure and they answer any questions the children have about what happens to their crochet after we leave.  This arrangement lets the children function as children and lets Carma and I teach them the fun that can be had with yarn and a hook.

The first group had 3 children.  I was able to get all 3 started with chains and 2 with single crochet.  The next month we had 2 children from the month before and a new child.  Our new child found some difficulties in just being part of the group, but found comfort in just holding the yarn.  Each month was different and each month I left with my heart full of gratitude for being with them.  After a few months, as the groups continued to grow, I turned to my best friend, Carma, who also loves crochet and fiber and she very gladly joined me. At this point we were up to 3 groups each Crochet Club day with between 3 to 6 students per group. This past month we had one group of 3 and one group of 10!

KidsTLC residents are eager and ready for Crochet Club! 
Teaching these children requires a new view of our goal and of teaching.  Sometimes it is hard to find a way to crochet that makes sense to that learner.  We needed to know not just ways to teach different learning styles, but different ways to hold hooks and yarn!  Learning to crochet is a vehicle to teach them to be a part of a group, to be patient for your turn, to follow directions, to learn how to interact with your fellow learners.  We teach with small steps.  Today a child might learn how to chain.  Next month the same child may need to learn chains again.  Carma found us a project that used chains,   everyone could participate in a group project that was proudly displayed in the common areas at KidsTLC.

Generous volunteers and KidsTLC residents work together to be successful! 
Some children have progressed to making hats or a scarf as a gift for a loved one.  Each child learns at their own pace and each time they learn something is an accomplishment. Each time is an opportunity to build self-esteem and social skills.  Each time is an opportunity to be successful.   
They all have something to say about crochet (and so many other things!)  Visiting with them is as much fun as teaching them, and possibly more rewarding.  When they come back each month we can see the changes in them. The one thing that remains constant is their love of Crochet Club and their excitement to be there. 

The Crochet Club program at KidsTLC is funded by donations and we strive to ensure that each child has a hook and yarn that they take back to their units with them.  In the beginning it was difficult to source the yarn and hooks for each month’s meeting.  However, the volunteer and donor network at KidsTLC is very responsive to Elizabeth’s calls for supplies.  And what a lucky thing that is!  We go through a lot of yarn each month -. It is wonderful to say we have enough for everyone!  We have also added a few magazines to the stash as they build a small “crochet library”.  

If you see a need to help children with challenges in your neighborhood we would strongly encourage you to do it.  You won’t be sorry that you did and you will make a huge difference in a child’s life. 

For more information on our program or about KidsTLC, please contact Elizabeth Hall at ehall@kidstlc.org. or visit their website. You can also grab Carma or me and we’d be happy to share with you. 








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