At times, life can get messy and bumpy. It can be difficult for young people to navigate their way and equally as hard for the adults in their lives trying to support them. UNTWIST has been written to provide a space where young people can identify emotions and discover positive and practical ways to negotiate these chapters. #JustaChapterNOTMyStory.
UNTWIST is a tool for the adults and agencies tasked with helping them. A vehicle to build relationships and connect with young people, and support them in discovering ways to 'feel ok' again.
“When I was an assistant principal, I was always being sent the ‘difficult kids’,” author Sarah McMurtrie explains.
“One particular foster boy spent many lunch hours with me, and one day I stapled some paper together and we made a book about him — schools he’d been to, friends and teachers he’d had, his favourite foods, TV shows…
“I expected he would throw it out the bus window on his way home, but many years later when he moved away for work, his foster parents told me he had asked them to pack up some of his things to send to him.“Along with his cricket bat, he had wanted this little book about his life from all those years ago".
“What I had thought was just a simple activity , I realised was a vehicle to building a valued relationship. Instead of asking 'Why do you act like this? 'I was taking the time to get to know him and what was ' going on' for him. When young people begin to understand why they are like they are, they can connect the puzzle pieces of their story and feel a greater sense of control over leading a more positive future.. we can not erase what has happened but we can change how we respond'.
Neuroscience tells us that valued and trusted relationships can promote healing and can be the game changer in overcoming the adverse impacts of childhood trauma. UNTWIST is a strength based tool that helps the adults in a child's life to build relationships, to pause and connect with young people.
World renowned child psychiatrist Bruce Perry comments,'The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. "Relationships are the agents of change". More recently he reminded us, "Really it boils down to something pretty simple. And it's relationships". Oprah Winfrey shared her own example of a turning point in her life, when a fourth grade teacher, developed a sense of value and connection. " I believed that I mattered.....at some point in your life there was a relationship,... that helped you to get where you are". Former at-risk foster child Josh Shipp now international youth advocate is known for his quote " Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story".
UNTWIST offers a trauma informed tool grounded in theories of positive psychology and mindfulness. Whilst mindfulness has its roots in many cultural and spiritual traditions, in recent years there has been documented research into its positive effects. A clinician internationally known for his work in the integration of developmental, neurobiological, psychodynamic aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment is , Bessel A.van der Kolk . He states, 'Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but it can also actively steer us in the right direction for self care'. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry and childhood trauma expert supports this theory, " making sense of our experiences and relationships shapes the way we interact with others and the world around us. Cultivating presence can help support important changes in neural structure that lead to integration, balance, happiness, and more rewarding and deeply connected relationships' .
Littered through out UNTWIST are images and text to prompt a young person to identify and think about the things that make them feel good, pause and focus their thoughts on positive aspects of their life and finding joy in the little things. Music psychology research attests to the influence music listening has over emotional states. We know that personalised music listening is a number one emotional management strategy.UNTWIST encourages young people to utilise music to enhance emotional awareness and regulation skills.The research and life stories are there. We know relationships can make the difference. At times, starting or maintaining those relationships is difficult. UNTWIST is designed to offer a contemporary and non-confrontational way to start a conversation and make a connection.