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Published Friday 10 Jan 2020

The Paediatric Rheumatology Service ran an art workshop for children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

The Paediatric Rheumatology Service ran an art workshop for children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

About 10 children who attended The Art Room and Paediatric Rheumatology collaborative art sessions in Upper Hutt late last year had JIA and lived in the Wellington, Kapiti and Whanganui regions.


Based at Hutt Valley DHB, Paediatric Rheumatology Nurse Specialist Nicola Gray said the other thing the children had in common was they took Methotrexate weekly to help manage joint inflammation caused by their condition.

Methotrexate can cause nausea, which can lead to anticipatory anxiety about taking the medication orally, and also if taken by injection it can cause anxiety related to having an injection.

"Having explored many known anti-anxiety interventions with parents to run with at home, I still felt that we weren’t solving the issue and despite the best efforts of myself and families this problem was continuing to challenge us all," Nicola said.

"I started wondering if there was anything else I could explore for families."

Her children attended school holiday sessions at The Art Room on Fergusson Drive in Upper Hutt so she chatted with its owners, Rosenda Upton and Pip Raynor, about the challenges she faced with her JIA patients.

"They instantly could see the benefit of using art to help modify the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and came up with some great ideas.

"We were then able to invite local families to bring their children along to two sessions

"Alongside the art session for the children I invited the parents to have a coffee and a chat with other parents so they could share their experiences and strategies.

"At the second session the parents and myself went for a walk together along the Hutt River with the goal of encouraging parents to also see the benefits of them managing their anxiety and of exploring the benefits of mindfulness and relaxation, to enable them to support their child on their journey with arthritis."

The Art Room co-owner Rosenda Upton said the theme for the sessions was My Happy Place.

"The purpose of this was to allow the children to visualise, create and make their own happy place by making a diorama," Rosenda said.

"Being able to transport yourself to this happy place at times when you feel stress or anxiety is a wonderful skill to utilise and practise.This was a multi-sensory activity and each child expressed themselves in a very unique way.

"We also introduced the children to using a visual diary to help with mindfulness.

"This is another lifelong skill that we hope the children will continue to practise. We shared how we use our own visual diaries and that you don't need to be a skilled artist to be creative.

"The children also experienced the benefits of mark making using paints.This is a very non-threatening fun way to paint and another example of how we can switch off to the worries in life and be mindful through art.

"We were absolutely blown away by the response from the children to all the activities. They embraced the diorama activity with many bringing items that were special to them that they wanted to add to their diorama in the second session. The children's level of engagement was high and they were all in the zone."

The children gave various feedback including: The visual diaries were cool because we could do what we wanted and be creative; I felt calm and relaxed when I was drawing in my visual diary; and I liked that it is calming in here and it is quiet.