Baroness Sheila Hollins shared the Beyond Words method of exploring experiences and feelings through pictures at the recent Diocesan Annual Safeguarding Event.
Children and adults who can’t read or who are emotionally upset may find that pictures reach them in ways that words can’t. That’s why there are no words in Books Beyond Words’ picture stories. The books all tell a story, but they also let the reader tell their own story – the one they see in the pictures. This can tell you a lot about a person’s inner world, their understanding of situations and what is important to them.
Sheila founded Beyond Words in 1989 when she was Professor of Psychiatry of Disability at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London. At the time, she was looking for pictures to help people with learning disabilities to prepare, better understand and cope with difficult events and experiences in their lives.
Books Beyond Words are the result of extensive research with people with learning disabilities and autism and have had a huge impact on these people’s health and wellbeing. The series comprises 57 books which cover topics including bereavement, abuse and trauma, criminal justice, physical and mental health, discrimination and much more.
The books are used in a range of one-to-one and group therapeutic and pastoral settings, and increasingly are being used to set up book clubs to provide a social hub.
In these clubs people with learning disabilities can relax, make friends and socialise with each other. Book clubs support social inclusion and community, something many people have been excluded from throughout their lives.
Research has shown that community participation contributes to increased self-confidence and well-being, gives people a voice and guards against harm, enables better mental and physical health, and safeguards against loneliness and harm.