05 SES 11, Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
This research enquires into the complex factors that influence the accessing of an arts therapy service to address the emotional needs of distressed children and young people 17 schools in the Limerick region of Ireland. This ‘not for profit’ service evolved from initial inception in one school and grew to its current size (19 schools) in answer to the demand from schools located in marginalised communities in Limerick. Though a significant number of arts therapists work individually in schools around Ireland, it is extremely unusual to find an entire organisation, set up and run by arts therapists, that is dedicated to this work. The arts therapy service is directed towards addressing the emotional needs of children who are identified by the schools as having difficulties that cannot be met within the classroom situation or by the existing care structures within the school.
The initial results of this research indicate that the proportion of children requiring support is directly related to the demographic profile of each school. For instance, in regeneration areas the proportion of need was cited as up to 75% of the school population, indicating the scale of needs in this area. There has been a considerable amount of research into social exclusion in the Limerick area (Fitzgerald 2007; Limerick Regeneration, Vision Plan 2008; Hourigan, 2011) from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. There is a recognition arising from this body of research of the profound impact of living in marginalised areas on that population’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being (Limerick Regeneration Health Impact Survey, 2008, Humphreys McCafferty and Higgins 2011, Hourigan, N. 2011).
The research reported here explores the emotional impact of marginalisation upon children and young people through the perceptions of the principals, teachers, parents, children, young people and therapists who are involved in the arts therapy service.
This research is undertaken from a hermeneutic phenomenological perspective and is situated in the ontological position that ‘the truth’ of any phenomena does not exist objectively outside its social, cultural and temporal construction. The first author who carried out the field work is a former teacher who currently works as an art therapist within the service reported here. This location facilitates appreciation of a number of interacting theoretical perspectives drawn from educational, therapeutic and artistic paradigms as well as from prevailing political and sociological thought.
The research question asks why a significant number of schools in Ireland are accessing arts therapy for emotionally distressed children and young people.
The research objectives are as follows:
1. What are the expressed needs of urban schools in Limerick in relation to children from socially disadvantaged areas with emotional difficulties?
2. How is the arts therapy service responding to these perceived needs and what are the perceived effects with children in these schools?
3. How does the arts therapy service interface with the culture of the school system?
Fitzgerald, J. 2007. Addressing Issues of Social Exclusion in Moyross and other Disadvantaged Areas of Limerick City. www.limerickregeneration.ie. [Online] Report to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion,, April 2007. [Cited: 10th May 2009.] www.limerickregeneration.ie/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/social_inclusion_limerick.pdf. Hourigan, N. (ed). 2011. Understanding Limerick: Social Exclusion and Change. Cork : Cork University Press, 2011. Humphreys, E. McCafferty, D. and Higgins, A. 2011. How Are Our Kids. IKOS Research & Consultancy Ltd with Mary Immaculate College Limerick Limerick Regeneration. 2008. Health Impact Assessment of Early School Leaving, Absenteeism and Truancy. s.l. : HSE, 2008. Smith, A. Flowers, P. and Larkin, M. 2009. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. London: Sage Publications, 2009.
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