First day at the Champion EI Centre, Burwood Hospital, Christchurch, NZ

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Today was my first official day of observations at the Champion Centre and after a brief orientation meeting last week, I was ready to observe children and talk to staff early this morning.  Researching with children (especially vulnerable children) rarely goes according to plan and today was no exception.  Children with complex needs are susceptible to illness and the child I was going to observe was absent due to family illness.  In addition, the sad news that one of the children who attends the centre had passed away made my attendance at staff meetings insensitive when there were delicate and confidential matters for staff to discuss.

Fortunately one of the families who did attend today allowed me to shadow them for the morning. The child in question has Global Developmental Delay and is placed in the Transition Group (aged 4 -6 and preparing to go to school).  His schedule for the day included music therapy, computer skills, occupational therapy, play therapy and social groups such as snack time and goodbye/singing time.  Unlike other EI services where the child would normally attend these sessions on his own, the child’s mother joined in with all of the sessions and participated fully.  She described how important this was for her relationship with her son and unlike other services they had previously been offered. She found it really useful to join in with the group sessions where she could talk to other parents and share stories.

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In line with other social spaces in Christchurch, signs of the earthquake culture are evident with the drill for earthquake situations translated into signs and symbols and placed around the building to remind children and families of safe procedure.  One of the Social Workers employed by the centre is particularly concerned about the effect of the trauma from earthquakes on families.  She wonders how the stress of repeated quakes and tremors has affected attachment, bonding and relationships, not to mention babies in utero at the time of serious quakes.  As she explained, ‘you don’t just loose your home, you loose your neighbours, your community, your way of being.  You’re in the same place, but everything around you has changed and you have no way of knowing when it will change again or how’.  Things are continuously in a state of flux for people in Christchurch and it does seem appropriate and timely to ask questions about the effect of this on children’s development.

The Champion Centre is part of the NZ Institute for Language Brain and Behaviour.

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