Artful recovery at the Children's Ark unit in Limerick


Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Artful recovery at the Children's Ark unit in Limerick

Cathal McCarthy from, Banogue, with mum Linda, second from right, art therapist Sheila Richardson and play specialist Kristina Buckley

THE Children’s Ark unit at University Hospital Limerick has launched its new art therapy programme that aims to help children with illness through sessions of art, music and much more.

The art sessions have been part of the Children’s Ark since this April, and have been run by art therapist Sheila Richardson. Ms Richardson has 20 years’ experience working with children and adolescents.

She said that art therapy is “perfect” for young people in a hospital environment.

“Art therapy is a form of therapy that uses art materials to gain insight and awareness to facilitate change and growth. It provides a gentle and safe way for them to explore their feelings  verbally and nonverbally,” she said.

She added: “The creative process helps build fine and gross motor skills while engaging the young person’s imagination and natural playfulness.

“Adolescents can gain insight into their problems and find compassionate and creative ways to support their development and healing. It also allows the processing of trauma that can lead to emotional healing and recovery.”

Play specialist Beryl Carswell said that the therapy ensures that young patients enjoy themselves during the “busy routine” at the hospital.

“She [Ms Richardson] provides her full attention to the needs of a particular patient. The patient may be feeling low after surgery; confined to their room/bed for their specific treatment; coping with a new diagnosis such as diabetes.

“The therapy provides welcome distraction from the routine of a busy ward. It is a total change from clinical care and choice of a specific activity is of paramount importance,” Ms Carswell said.

The sounds of Music Generation Limerick have been frequent additions to the wards at the Children’s Ark, with local musicians Peter Hannigan and Emma Langford regular performers in recent months.

Additionally, Wild Encounters — a Limerick-based animal outreach programme — has also entertained and educated the young patients with their furry and feathered friends.