Unmasking new arrivals

BY:  SHANNON SCHILLING

Dedicated quality poured out upon the elegantly displayed array of expressiveness, and groups of brain injury confidants cast their talent in raw form.

Participant Chris paints his mask for unmasking brain injury
PHOTO: SHANNON SCHILLING

Picturesque participation mastered itself along this year’s province-wide event: Unmasking Brain Injury. In Toronto, four sessions, over two months, that were available for participants to attend at the CHIRS head office on Yonge Street, Toronto. The third day on April 7, 2018, from 1-4 p.m.: that afternoon I attended with my husband (pictured above).

Along with survivors and their partnerships, the CHIRS staff welcomed an incredible show of artistic achievement. Clients’ feelings were captured inside and out, with primary colours envisioning an individuality to others.

It was an event not to be missed, with collaboration representing members from both CHIRS and BIST on all four afternoons it was available. The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) brought the event to the attention of brain injury associations across the province to share in the experience.

The movement began in North Carolina in the United States and has internationally gained attention and participation worldwide.

Unmasking Brain Injury

Anticipating Brain Injury Awareness Month up and coming in June, each mask unfolds a journey contemplating the struggle and eventual acceptance of complete enlightenment. It was not a requirement, but thoughtful insight may have assisted in the creation of the fulfillment of property.

BIST Communications and Support Coordinator Meri Perra expressed to me how she was very humbled by the experience, “I had a huge respect for the artists involved and the project as a whole.”

What an uplifting afternoon!

It’s hard to believe that the mind has so much instinctive awareness; and what we come to believe with our eyes, is carried around as thoughts inside. I need my brother right now, so he can ask his machine, “Alexa, who first invented art?”

Of course, it is the expression of art that is not able to be contained in a simple answer. In all relativity, it is something that everyone needs to discover within themselves first to unmask its glow.

See the Masks on display at 9 Bars Coffee,  June 1 – 14

9 Bars is located at 46 St. Clair Ave East, Mon – Fri, 7:30 – 6 p.m.


 

 Shannon Schilling has recently had a baby girl, Annabelle, and lives in Oakville with her fiance, Christopher Uy. This summer she is able to attend the University of Toronto for a single course as well as acknowledging the juxtaposition of responsibilities at home. She owes enormous gratitude to the considerate help from her family.

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January Community Meeting: Art Therapy

BIST members expressed their creativity in a big way at our January community meeting, where clinical social worker Lynne Harford, MSW, RSW showed us the benefits of art therapy post-brain injury.

pictures from our art therapy community meeting
Rob shows off his art work, entitled ‘Release the Qi’ (top left); Some art supplies we used at the meeting (top right); a BIST member creates ‘Magic Beads’ (bottom left); Our presenter Lynne Harford (bottom right)

Lynne shared that she works with many clients who have brain injuries.

“I recognize that [living with the effects of brain injury] is a journey,” Lynne said. “I am honoured to hear and bear witness to the stories of my clients.”

Engaging in art can change a person’s physiology, reduce stress and lead to deep relaxation. Lynne said that these changes can be seen on a person’s brain wave patterns. Art can alter our perception of the world, change how we perceive pain and cope with various challenges. This is why art therapy can be so beneficial.

Lynne Harford shows off BIST members' art work
Lynne Harford shows off BIST members’ art work

There are certain myths about art and creativity, including that creativity can not be learned, and that art should only be created by ‘real’ artists. But Lynne stressed that creativity is for all of us. As kids, most of us thought we were great, creative artists, but we lose that confidence as we age.

Tips for getting your creativity on

  • Let go of any negative judgments you have about your own creativity
  • Jump into the process – forget about the final product
  • Don’t over-think your art
  • Don’t compare your work with your neighbour’s – this is about expressing something within yourself
  • Remember, you are your own unique and creative being
Sara shows her clay masterpiece (top); Sara working on her art (bottom left); Some more art supplies
Sara shows her clay masterpiece (top); Sara working on her art (bottom left); Some more art supplies

BIST members had the opportunity to work with pencil crayons, clay, paint, beads and pastels. After, Lynne held up everyone’s work, and asked members to describe their piece. As can be seen by some of these samples, we created a diversity of amazing art in a very short time!

BIST member shows off her work, 'We Are One' (left); 'Blob' (top right); ''York University Student Excited to Learn the Patois Curriculum (bottom left)
BIST member shows off her work, ‘We Are One’ (left); ‘Blob’ (top right); ”York University Student Excited to Learn the Patois Curriculum (bottom left)

Art Therapy Community MeetingArt Therapy Community Meeting

Our next community meeting will be on February 22nd, 6-8 p.m.
TOPIC: How to get better sleep and boost your energy with naturopathic doctor, Dr. Anne Hussaine, ND.

CHIRS / BIST member Rob Ashe gives UK brain injury organization, Headway Essex, t-shirt a tour of Toronto

BY: AMEE LE

Recently I’ve had a chance to visit England and walked through the doors of Headway Essex. Headway is a large organization which provides brain injury care and support throughout the U.K. I came in contact with Headway East London through discovering their art studio website. I discovered Headway Essex through Dr. Carolyn Lemsky, Clinical Director at CHIRS introduced me to Steve Shears, Trainer and Psychotherapist at Headway Essex. Steve kindly showed me the agency and I had a chance to visit and meet the people at Headway.

Headway Essex – 58b Head Street, Colchester, Essex
Headway Essex – 58b Head Street, Colchester, Essex

During my day visit, I had the opportunity to visit BounceAbility – Special Needs Trampoline Centre. Watching people of all physical abilities getting out of their wheelchairs and working on balance, coordination and stretching. There was also added “stealth benefits” (according to Andy Plowright, Service Manager) such as allowing another person to help you with your balance and relying on another person to support you on a moving surface can build trust and re-establish physical and emotional connections with another person. This supportive and trusting relationship is especially important for a person who have experienced physical trauma that have resulted in the head injury.

BounceAbility – Special Needs Trampoline Centre
BounceAbility – Special Needs Trampoline Centre

Visiting the day program and meeting people at Headway was heartwarming. One person showed me his ankle foot orthosis (AFO) brace that is very well made and seems to be protective of sensitive skin areas in the lower extremities. The brace was red and the owner of this brace is proud to be a Manchester United Fan; in Toronto, our AFO brace are uniformly white.

A Manchester United Ankle Foot Orthosis
A Manchester United Ankle Foot Orthosis

I had a chance to talk about my meditation and art program which hopefully generated some interest in developing meditation and art programming for people at Headway. When it was time to part, I was given several information guides, newsletter and a large Headway t-Shirt. Andy Plowright, Service Manager at Headway Essex was apologetic that the t-shirt would not fit me but generous in his giving spirit and gesture of appreciation.

When I came back to Toronto, I wanted to do something special and carry on the momentum of giving. I was speaking with my colleague Amanda Muise, Behavioural Therapist about my excitement and ideas. I thought it would be cool for CHIRS and Headway to connect and a T-shirt could be a good catalyst.  We talked about who could wear this T-shirt and she suggested Mr. Rob Ashe.

Rob ordering a burger
Rob ordering a burger

When I told Rob about my idea and showed him the picture, newsletter and T-shirt, he was very excited about the idea. He eagerly put the Tshirt safely away in his backpack. When I saw Rob two days later, he had taken pictures of himself around the city with the help of his friend, James.

Welcome to Toronto, Canada!
Welcome to Toronto, Canada!
Rob in front of Tim Hortons – a Canadian favourite for coffee lovers
Rob in front of Tim Hortons – a Canadian favourite for coffee lovers

Rob and I know each other through his participation in Mindful Art Workshop – Winter 2014. During the workshop, Rob learnt to meditate and try to do an art activity that was new to him. He made new friends whom he tries to keep in touch with. Rob was able to complete his art activity quickly and was ready to move on to the next task.

So sitting still and waiting and listening was new to him. He is very articulate and easily shares his stories, successes and difficulties but this ability to articulate could overshadow others who had a harder time sharing their voices. As the workshop progressed, Rob learnt to sit back and listen. To reflect quietly, then use his articulate voice to deeply appreciate other people’s talents and gifts. He talked more about others and less about his stories and came to appreciate this new way of being. Below is a sample of his art work. He called this piece – Anointed.

Anointed by Rob Ashe – art work from Mindful Art Workshop 2014
Anointed by Rob Ashe – art work from Mindful Art Workshop 2014
Rob Ashe infront of CHIRS
Rob in front of CHIRS – Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto

After taking a series of photographs, Rob and I sat down and I helped to upload the photographs from his phone. During the summer months in Toronto, there are several festivals and celebrations.

Below are the places that Rob visited with his friends from CHIRS:

Rob Ashe plays hockey at CHIRS
Rob at Hockey Night – a CHIRS program for persons of all abilities to have fun playing floor hockey in teams
Rob Ashe takes the subway in Toronto
Rob takes the subway Toronto
Rob with a street performer at Buskerfest in front of Yonge-Dundas Square
Rob with a street performer at BuskerFest in front of Yonge-Dundas Square
Rob poses with a street performer at BuskerFest
Rob with a street performer at BuskerFest
Rob in front of the HMV store on Yonge Street
Rob in front one of the HMV store on Yonge Street – one of his favourite places
Rob with Buskerfest volunteers
Rob with BuskerFest volunteers
Rob promoting epilepsy awareness at Yonge-Dundas square
Rob in front of Yonge-Dundas Square holding purple balloons to support epilepsy awareness – a cause that is close to his heart (BuskerFest is a fundraising for Epilepsy Toronto)
Rob and David Smith, mentor's coordinator at CHIRS in front of Pape subway station
Rob and David Slonim (mentors’ coordinator at CHIRS) in front of Pape Subway Station
Rob and his friend Jen sit in front of of Jen's childhood school
Rob and his friend Jen, sitting outside her childhood school, a private school for girls
Rob at Spadina Subway Station
Rob at Spadina Subway Station in Toronto. “This shows the humanistic side to us, ” Rob said. .”He was playing guitar and I waited for him to finish and I gave him some money and asked if he would like to take a picture together and he said, ‘sure’”
Rob in front the Old Mill in Toronto
Rob in front of the Old Mills. This is an important place as it is where he received his 25 years watch for working with the City of Toronto.
Rob in front of David's Tea.
Rob in front of David’s Tea.
Rob takes a picture of a UK flag for his wife who is from the UK
Rob taking a picture for his wife who is originally from the United Kingdom because she loves Union Jacks or anything to do with England

When I arrived at work on Monday morning, I found a treasure inside my mailbox. When Rob and I were sharing stories and photographs, he had tears in his eyes. Rob loves to connect with people and especially people of all abilities. He told me, “You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect person to do this task.”

Rob understands that people with a brain injury may not have the same physical abilities as they did prior to the injury. Through his travels he wanted to share with people the places and events that he has access to and hopefully through these images, all persons may have access to these places and events.

Rob's message to the author of this post
Rob’s message
Rob's message to the author of this post
Rob’s message

Hi!! My name is Rob Ashe and I am a client at CHIRS (Community Head Injury Resource Services) in Toronto. When I was asked to have pictures wearing your group shirt, I took on the task because I feel strongly that groups wherever and whoever need to make contact and then we have a better understanding of each other and That is Great!!!!

I want to thank you for this opportunity and let you know that I believe that having a brain injury should not hold us back as we have much to say, much to experience and above all, much TO GIVE

Rob with his wife of 19-years, Amanda
Rob and his wife Amanda. “We’ve been married 19 years and she helps me a lot.”

I can’t begin to tell you how much this has touched my heart. Sometimes the work that we do can feel like work and there are good days and challenging days.  Some days are full of beautiful moments and some days are problem solving days. My motivation for doing this work is to help others, whoever comes to my door. Knowing that we can touch each other’s lives and share in meaningful moments is a good reminder for me of the goodness inside each person that I’ve met. I am sure many therapists, helpers, teachers out there will share in my experience that the work that we do is relational and it takes two to form a relationship. The support and encouragement I give to the clients that have come into my life are reciprocated in so many ways that surprises me when I need it the most. It is these moments that helps me to remember what is important to me. To help others knowing that we all have an important part in each others lives.

NOTE TO HEADWAY ESSEX FROM BIST:

We’re sending you a t-shirt from our areyouaware.ca campaign – and can’t wait to see where it goes!

BIST areyouaware t-shirt and envelop to Headway


Amee Le is a Occupational Therapist (OT), meditation teacher, and art therapist practicing in the city of Toronto. She developed Mindful Art Workshop based on helping people with a brain injury through periods of high stress and anxiety.

You can find Amee on LinkedIn, Vimeo and YouTube.

This article was orginally posted on Amee’s blog:  Mindful Art Workshop

The Heart of Art

BY: MARK KONING

I have found Art to be a great therapy tool. I say that with a capital ‘A’ because I am referring to all forms of Art, from singing to painting, dancing to acting. For me, writing is something I use as my coping mechanism and support for understanding. Writing is my learning tool and aids my growth. But throughout my life it has been anything creative that has made an impact. It is the ability to use the imagination, to soar high and move forward.

photo credit: Writing Tools via photopin (license)
photo credit: Writing Tools via photopin (license)

I have heard many stories about the ways in which a form of Art has helped individuals deal with brain injury, such as music or sculpting. Creating seems to bring about a relaxation to the mind, and a flow to the body. Even listening to music can offer someone motivation. Looking at pictures or staring at a painting can begin to alleviate pain.

Art is in the eye of the beholder, and because of this freedom, it can bring huge amounts of joy to the heart. It does this for plenty of people both with and without a disability because creative arts are like magic to the soul.

Doing the craft yourself or witnessing it within the pages of a book, a stage, the big or small screen; the brain becomes active and stimulates emotions. These are emotions which otherwise tend to remain stagnant when stuck in a cycle of isolation, depression, or frustration. Just calm down and pick up a paint brush, hum a tune or get lost in the cloud of the imagination. I’ve seen brain injury survivors come alive and develop a passion because of Art. Those powerful feelings can be transferred onto other challenges such as cleaning the house to going to a regular job.

photo credit: Massimo Ranieri Concert 2009 Taormina-Sicilia-Italy - Creative Commons by gnuckx via photopin (license)
photo credit: Massimo Ranieri Concert 2009 Taormina-Sicilia-Italy – Creative Commons by gnuckx via photopin (license)

Dr. Lukasz M. Konopka  states in Where art meets neuroscience: a new horizon of art therapy,

Various fields use the concept of brain plasticity. One such very exciting, emerging field involves the study of art and the brain, or art therapy. … in terms of therapy, there is no difference between using scientifically validated novel art therapy and other current standard therapeutic interventions. Treating human pathology using art gives us a tremendous alternative unique and novel option for engaging brain networks that enhance the way the brain processes information, incorporates external and internal data, and develops new efficient brain connections.

Whether you are looking at art from a scientific standpoint, a therapeutic one, or as just a hobby, there is no doubt that the effects that dance upon the brain are inspiring.

Since sustaining his brain injury at an early age and now armed with a Creative Writing diploma and a social responsibility, the goal for Mark is to share, inspire and grow, with others and himself. To learn more, you can visit his website at www.markkoning.com