Puppets a powerful tool to help children express their feelings

A Dundee artist has taken the unusual step of designing puppets to allow children suffering from mental health conditions to communicate their feelings.

Duncan of Jordanstone graduate Deborah Chapman, 27, has developed a self-help service combining her creative talents with helping youngsters suffering from attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD).

Since launching her project, How It Felt, last May, Deborah’s work has been acclaimed by specialists and parents throughout Tayside.

Such is the success of her venture, Deborah’s work has now been backed with a grant from the Dundee Futures Fund.

She now hopes to use the financial backing to allow her to take her puppets to schools and youth centres throughout Britain in an attempt to help children engage and express their feelings.

Revealing the inspiration behind her project, Deborah said: “It started out as a university project and has just grown from there.

“I’ve always been a fan of puppets. My friend and I grew up in the 1980s and loved everything to do with Jim Henson and the Muppets.

“We both have had our own mental health issues in the past and decided to make puppets of ourselves talking about how we felt and record videos.

“From there, we got a doctor interested who works with children who have ADHD.

“For my final year at Duncan of Jordanstone, as part of the degree show I made a film of children from an ADHD support group.

“In the film we recorded the children’s voices and made puppets of each child.

“We then attached the voices to the puppets to make it look like the puppets were speaking about the children’s feelings.

“We got so much coverage from the film and had a lot of people approach us. It’s all been going on since last May.

“I’d like to maybe take the puppets in a van and visit schools throughout the UK.”

She said: “The young people loved taking part and helping in the creative process of making puppets that looked like them and then finding the confidence to talk about their experiences through the puppet.

“The main goal was to give the young people and their families a voice about how it is to live daily with their conditions.”

Alison Clink, project manager of the Dundee and Angus ADHD support group said: “This was an innovative project which highlighted the various communication and behavioural issues experienced by families with a child who has ADHD.”

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