Epilepsy Ireland in partnership with Helium Arts hosted a series of puppet-making workshops for children with epilepsy and children whose parents have epilepsy in Galway, Cork and Dublin in spring of 2016. The workshops provided a space for the children to come together and meet other children with epilepsy and to explore epilepsy in a fun and non-threatening environment. Parents had the opportunity to share and learn from each other as the children interacted.
Led by puppeteer Niamh Lawlor, the children explored story-making, characterisation and puppet play and put on a short performance for parents.
The world of Fluffy and friends
In the workshop for the younger children (4-7 years), they are introduced to a puppet character called Fluffy who is feeling shy and not very well as she had a seizure that morning. To make her feel better the children are encouraged to make her some sock puppet friends. So the creativity began with parents and children using a variety of art materials to make their own sock puppet characters. The workshops ended with their puppets meeting Fluffy and telling her it’s okay as they know how she feels.
‘The workshop was amazing. (My child) came home telling stories about fluffy (the puppet) having epilepsy like her… I came away with a light heart and a happy head and it was lovely to be able to sit down and relax and know that no matter what happened that day, nobody would bat an eyelid because we were all in the same boat…’ – Parent
Talking about epilepsy in a fun, relaxed way through puppet characters removed the fear factor that might otherwise inhibit the children. When Fluffy told them about taking her medication, they nodded and offered advice. Parents remarked on the importance of seeing their children express what they understood about epilepsy and how they felt about it.
The older children (8-11 years) had an opportunity for their puppets to be on Puppet TV and to tell the audience anything they wanted to say about epilepsy. The puppets let it be known that they had lots of hobbies and epilepsy wasn’t going to stop them doing all the things they wanted … they’d even learned to sew that very day!
The interactive nature of the workshops – bonding through puppet-making, performing on Puppet TV – was a highlight for many parents. Being able to talk with other parents about their experiences with GPs, schools and general attitudes to children with epilepsy was also considered very beneficial.
‘A lovely group, lovely kids, super activity, fab staff, it was the best day me and (child) have spent together in a long time.’
Watch this short video from the workshops to see a little of what took place:
We gratefully acknowledge Flying Tiger Copenhagen for sponsoring some of the workshop materials.