Connecting Moments: Facilitating illustrated life stories
Connecting Moments Process © 2007, Valerie Walawender, M.A.
The “Connecting Moments” Process” © 2007, a unique story-telling methodology, was developed by art facilitator, Valerie Walawender, M.A. while working with various communities including children, teens on probation, ethnic populations and others. A healthcare life-enrichment methodology, CMP integrates art with storytelling. Current literature confirms that art and storytelling can facilitate individual and community healing.
The CMP facilitator gently draws out the individual client’s story through nurturing reflective conversation. The client, referred here-after as the “individual”, may be a child in an after-school program, an elderly resident in a nursing home, a patient, an incarcerated individual, or simply a community member wishing to share the stories of his or her life. The individual’s circle of friends, care-takers, or others are included in the process are included in this process. The facilitator illustrates and writes the story as it is told. The story can later be sewn into a book. Deceptively simple, CMP can impact an individual’s life and transform family and community in powerful ways.
Caring and sensitive, CMP supports and engages the individual. It assures continuation of his or her legacy. When a skilled CMP facilitator helps an individual tell their story, the individual, his family, community, and caretakers benefit.
Individuals connect with themselves and others on a richer level. They hear their own words read back to them and see drawings of their life come to life. The individual re-lives that moment and memory. Whether suffering from a physical or mental disability, such anxiety, mental illness, depression, stroke, dementia or other disease, the memories that exist can be enhanced, enjoyed, and shared.
Families benefit. Though familiar ways of relating may no longer be possible, CMP helps families connect in the present day. After the individual has passed away, a very special and personal CMP document remains to boost more storytelling and family and community bonding.
The “unfolding” story engages organizational and facility staff and others with the individual in a new way. Staff with only snatches of time while tending to individual needs, can read, in just a minute, a page that may have taken the individual an hour to narrate. The drawn images communicate much about the individual in just seconds, encouraging conversation.
Even the individual who is unable to speak, has a story to tell. Conversations with family, photos, possessions, greeting cards and non-verbal interactions with the individual contribute to the story.
Relationships grow as the story grows. An aide, activity director, others and the individual’s family, all delight in seeing themselves in the “picture.” A patient with Alzheimer’s disease may “forget” their own story from moment to moment, but CMP can help many people interact with the whole person. Genuine, warm social interaction is highly rewarding for both the individual and staff. The more the “whole” person is responded to, the more likely he or she will connect with others. Community is built as stories are shared and known. The illustrated story acts as a visual reminder, causing the story to evolve with each re-telling. Every story counts. Every telling counts. Every minute counts. The “Connecting Moments” Process fosters appreciation for how much every person counts.
Who can benefit from the “Connecting Moments Process” (CMP)?
A healing storytelling methodology, CMP is highly effective when used with adults, youth, patients, their families, friends, institutional caregivers and others. CMP offers a unique and powerful way to build community through intimate, skilled interaction; drawing; and storytelling. CMP creator, Valerie Walawender, M.A., has used this process with individuals of many ages, backgrounds and circumstances.
Very replicable, CMP can be used by anyone working with a special population as a focus or part of a larger program. The required drawing skill can range from the ability to sketch primitive stick-figures to rendering realistic portraiture. Many people can participate, even if they have just a few minutes to “gather a story” from an individual. CMP’s highly-engaging creative community process brings excitement and joy, even when mind-numbing routine or sadness dominates.
While other legacy and therapeutic storytelling methodologies exist, CMP integrates interactive, inherently amusing, energetic drawing created as individuals tell their stories. Engaging the individual and others in a very dynamic way, the document remains so others can read it. This encourages more communication and storytelling. The “book” (even if only one page), is incredibly meaningful to the family, friends, and the individual. A testament to the person, the “book” remains as a way for friends and generations to share into the future. The “book,” can be reproduced so that organizational and facility staff, who often create strong feelings for individuals in their care, can enjoy the memories of the individual long after he or she is gone.
Highly adaptable, CMP can be used in groups, recording and illustrating conversation, singing, eating, and other activities.
A handbook and demonstration CD with step-by-step instructions is available to help others use CMP.