We have a new Featured Professional to introduce you to! Tammi works with kids with special needs and graciously answered a few questions.
Fun and Function: Who are you and what is your profession?
Tammi Van Hollander: Tammi Van Hollander, Family and Play Therapist.
Fun and Function: What company do you work with? Do you have a website to point us to?
FF: What is the nature of special needs you work with the most?
TVH: I work with families that experience stressors and challenges in their every day lives. Many of the children I see have difficulty with self-regulation and exhibit sensory seeking behaviors that may present itself in forms of anxiety, hyperactivity, and aggression. Some children with sensory issues may exhibit anxiety because they feel a loss of control and their world can be scary due to their sensitivities. I also work with siblings who need that special place to play out their feelings of having a brother or sister with special needs.
FF: What would you say is your biggest challenge in working with children with special needs?
TVH: As a play therapist, it can be challenging to see a child who does not play and views their world concretely. If a child is really dysregulated and unsafe in the playroom setting, intensive OT may be initially recommended. Some children's little bodies are in crisis and need the OT before working on their emotional issues.
FF: What is your greatest joy in your job?
TVH: Everything! Seeing the joy of children coming to my playroom, laughing and singing when they are engaged in the play. It is a true gift to have children invite me into their imaginative world. It is wonderful to see children leave the playroom happier and calmer by giving them the tools to quiet their nervous system and feel understood. Expression of feelings is difficult for parents and children. This type of work gives everyone the tools to express their feelings in a child-centered developmentally appropriate manner.
FF: What has been the greatest help to you in your profession?
TVH: Play therapy and sand tray therapy provides an avenue to communicate with children through the language of play. Children are stressed and there are so many rules at home and at school. The playroom provides a place where they make the rules and "they get to decide." Sand tray therapy is so powerful and I could never imagine my work without playing in the sand. So many emotional issues can be uncovered through the toys and the sand. Children play out what is troubling them in the safety of the playroom.
FF: Give us one tool you would hate to live without?
TVH: My sand box!
FF: If you could give one piece of advice to a parent who's child has just been diagnosed, what would it be?
TVH: All behaviors have a meaning and every child is different. We need to look at these behaviors and identify what is going on for your child and understand how he/she views the world. For example, the child who can not keep his hands or feet to himself is doing it for a reason. Is it sensory-seeking, impulsivity, anxiety, etc? Parents, teachers, and professionals need to look into the many factors of children's wiring, genetics, and social and emotional factors. I'm a big believer of focusing on the strengths. My clients laugh because we always start our session with "What was thumbs up?" It's important for parents to encourage children to access these strengths and celebrate their successes as small or large as they may be. There needs to be reasons to celebrate which may sometimes feel difficult because the hard times can be so hard. The bigger the support system the better!
Tammi, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and all the readers here at Fun and Function.
If you would like to be a featured parent or professional, just let us know!