Ty Hafan

#family friday

a journey from student to play practitioner

Emma Atkins, one of our wonderful play practitioners, reflects on the student placement journey at Tŷ Hafan that led to her becoming an instrumental member of our play team.

Emma Atkins with conjoined twins

I always knew I wanted to go into a career that enabled me to use art to benefit others so ended up doing my degree in BA Hons Creative and Therapeutic Arts at the University of South Wales to become a Creative and Therapeutic Arts Practitioner. I wanted to do a placement in children’s palliative care and was lucky enough to have my third year placement at Tŷ Hafan where I facilitated therapeutic arts activities for children with life-limiting conditions and their siblings. It was a really challenging and insightful experience as each week saw different children in, all with completely different needs.

During a typical day on my placement, I’d help out with Stay N’ Play in the morning, where children would be able to try out the toys that are able to be loaned, then I would help out with art club in the afternoon and do 1-1 expressive and therapeutic arts sessions with the children. Often mums, dads, brothers and sisters would get involved too. It was a unique experience because I was able to learn about so many different conditions, as well as having the chance to work with children aged 0-18, not many placements can offer you all of that! It was also very rewarding to be able to impact a child’s stay at Tŷ Hafan. It was by far the most fun and varied placement experience out of the three that I had. After finishing my degree I was able to volunteer and helped out with facilitating play and art activities in the hospice. This then followed on to being offered a job as part of the play team.

Emma Atkins at St Fagans sibling day

I now work as a Play Practitioner at Tŷ Hafan and my job primarily involves doing 1-1 play and therapeutic arts sessions out in the community but I also facilitate days where families come in to receive play and arts activities in the hospice. The visits I do in the community are mainly focused around facilitating enjoyment but also provide relaxation, support wellbeing, and develop communication. I’ve found it extremely rewarding to help families to communicate with their child/ sibling again if their needs have changed, and to show that every child can enjoy play and arts, just that the activities may need to be adapted to suit their needs.

I’ve also been able to bring my art background to the role and broaden the outreach service and we are now able to offer a pathway of 1-1 creative and therapeutic arts sessions in the community. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to have my placement at Tŷ Hafan, it’s definitely helped to kick start my career and encourage the facilitation of arts within children’s palliative care.