One of the strange but nice things about dementia is the way arts can help retain memories. Singing, for example, seems to affect the brain in a way that can put patients on a level playing field with those without that awful disease.
Why? Because singing helps retain memories for all who take part, singing makes all feel good and can be a social event for all.
The Alzheimer’s Society runs Singing for the Brain with this in mind, benefitting patients and carers.
Creative writing is another art form which can be of enormous benefit because it is an excellent form of self expression. To encourage people to write, especially when they seem to be in a situation where this would generally be seen not to be possible, is a great thing to do and has health benefits.
So, when I came across Chocolate Muffin Publishing’s leaflet in Hiltingbury Post Office, I was pleased to write a post about the work they do in encouraging young and older people to discover the joy of creative writing. The link shows the projects they carry out.
Indeed their latest project, Big People Little People, is designed for grandparents and grandchildren to write projects together, which I think is a great way of bringing different generations together.
What attracted me to write about Chocolate Muffin Publishing in the first place was their work with dementia patients. I suspect dementia is a little like cancer in that you either have or have had family members with the disease or know people in that situation.
But it is also good Chocolate Muffin Publishing work with a wide variety of ages and people in different places in life as it spreads the joy of creating stories. It shows stories can be written by and enjoyed by all.
From a dementia patient’s viewpoint, the great thing is writing does not have to be done all at once. Some sessions will see a lot achieved, others not so much but the story continues to be built up. Nor does grammar and spelling have to be perfect. You are writing for your benefit. Is the meaning clear to you? And for those unable to physically write, others can take down words for them so they are not left out. After all who doesn’t like stories?
To then have a finished product at the end of the sessions, to have proof you have written a book, I think is a wonderful way of encouraging a sense of achievement. I met Chocolate Muffin Publishing’s CEO, Kate Day, earlier this year to talk about this.
Why the name Chocolate Muffin Publishing?
I asked my then 5 year old daughter, Jess what her favourite name for the company was – she said, Chocolate Muffin and it just seemed perfect!
What inspired you to start this?
I was a serving Police Officer in Hampshire and was contemplating a career change, to allow me more time with my family.
I began to write and illustrate a story book for my two nephews called, ‘Finley and Milo – The Treehouse Detectives‘. It was an adventure book with my nephews as the main characters, their two golden Labrador dogs and a badger in striped pyjamas!
Writing and illustrating provided a wonderful therapeutic respite from the challenges I faced at work. My daughter informed me that she would also love to write her very own book, and that is how Chocolate Muffin came to be.
How difficult has it been to get the company established?
I originally launched the company in March 2010 as a local after school club, but it soon became obvious that it could be adapted to suit anyone and our aim was to offer the workshops to children and adults of all abilities across the UK. We have personally funded parts of the project for six years and have found this to be incredibly challenging.
But we believe in it, we know it works and we will continue to do this for as long as we can!
Do you get any support from learning/disability charities etc?
The lack of funding is the issue across the board with all of the charities we work with. We do have projects which are funded by schools and some charities. However more funding is needed to enable us to offer our workshops to disadvantaged children and families nationwide.
If anyone knows of possible people to approach here, please use the comments box and details can be passed on. Likewise, if anyone would be interested in Chocolate Muffin Publishing’s workshops Kate would be delighted to hear from you via their website.
What is the greatest joy of Chocolate Muffin Publishing?
(The book signing event or seeing people get more from the course and discovering the joy of creativity)
A short, simple and very easy answer – BOTH!
Allison: Working with dementia patients must be challenging given both you and indeed the patients can never know how they will be on the days of your visits.
How do you cope with this?
We pride ourselves on the fact that our workshops are incredibly flexible and we tailor our sessions to cater for individual needs. If people don’t feel like writing when we arrive, then we will sit and have a chat, sing a song and have a cup of tea!
Allison: I see from the website you, understandably, need specialists in the fields of dyslexia and so on. The link below shows Chocolate Muffin Publishing’s team.
How do they cope with their challenges of convincing people they try to help that they can do this?
We have several ‘must have qualities’ for people who come and work with us – A passion for creative writing, patience, empathy, determination and courage…oh and they must have the ‘fun factor!
What is the greatest initial hurdle to overcome when working with those with special needs?
I don’t find that there is a ‘hurdle’. Special needs has such a wide spectrum and we tailor each session to meet the needs of individuals.
Is there anything further you would particularly like Chocolate Muffin Publishing to go on to achieve?
We are always looking for new ideas and projects and at present are working on several exciting ones! We have just launched a new project called, Big People Little People, where grandparents and grandchildren unite to write a book together. I have two colleagues working on advertising for this.
Many thanks, Kate, for sharing your thoughts and I hope Chocolate Muffin Publishing develops further. I’m glad creative writing is being promoted as a fun thing to do and hope as many as possible discover a love of stories as a result. I am also glad that disability, illness, age etc is no barrier to creative writing.
I would also like to thank Kate for the images in this post, all of which are reproduced with permission to be used on Chocolate Muffin Publishing’s website and other media.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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