“I’m really good!” beams Jeremy, an excited 9 year old child receiving services in our residential treatment program. He has just seen the piece he created during Alexander’s pottery program – an expressive therapy that enhances the agency’s creative arts programming. Ariel Kleim, licensed recreational therapist, has been working to build and strengthen the children’s involvement with clay since acquiring a kiln and initial supplies through the generous support from the Rotary Club of Charlotte-South. “I love doing pottery with the kids. It’s a chance to bond and to have a relational experience with them,” remarked Ariel. Twice a week, the kids work on some aspect of their project. From creating their piece, firing, applying 3 coats of paint and firing again – the entire process takes about a week. As for any child, waiting can be really difficult. When the time comes to reveal the completed piece, everyone is excited. “They look so different after they’re painted and it’s really an ahhhh moment.”
Ariel sees direct results of the activity as a means for the children to express themselves and derive a sense of pride. Once glazed and fired, the pots are individualized, tangible products, which children can display with pride or give as gifts. Ariel has noticed that the kids never keep the pieces they’ve made – they always give them to someone special in their life – a family member, friend, volunteer or staff. “I have a ton. They’re so sweet and I love that they thought of me,” Ariel comments. An unlikely pottery recipient is the class pet rabbit, Lola. Lola is a beautiful white and brown bunny who was rescued after her former owner abused her resulting in damage to her ear. Thanks to the love and affection provided by the kids and staff, Lola has made great strides – she is now completely potty-trained, walks on a leash and enjoys relaxing on a child’s lap. She is often the subject of the kids’ creative energies and has had her face sculpted as well as a new pet tag crafted in clay. “Lola has been through a lot. She’s special too,” commented one of the children in Lola’s class.
The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) is based on the work of Dr. Bruce Perry, a world-renowned child psychiatrist who has studied the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brains of children. Research shows that the tactile stimulation of working with clay helps improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and promotes healthy brain development. Creative artwork of any kind assists in the development of abstract cognitive functions and in the integration of right- and left-brain activity. The process of hand shaping the clay provides a safe outlet for emotions, as well as for creative expression. Alexander is proud of its growing array of experiential activities provided for children in residential and day treatment programs. Current offerings include drumming, yoga, play therapy, and pottery.
We love to share the children’s work with our supporters, so be sure to see some beautiful pottery pieces when you visit campus or being worn by our volunteers.
If you are interested in finding out ways you can support healing activities such as pottery, we would be happy to provide more information. Click here to make a donation to Alexander Youth Network.