Visualisations

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Visualisations

Visualisations can be a powerful way of focussing the mind away from current stresses and anxieties. The aim is recall a safe and happy memory in a specific place that you can try to imagine yourself there again. This could be somewhere on holiday, a day out or even just thinking about being home in your bedroom or garden. Using visualisations to effectively stay calm requires a lot of practice. Children will need a lot of initial adult support to help them think about their safe place in a multi-sensory way. However, once learnt, this technique provides a useful distraction for the mind when things are becoming overwhelming.

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What do I need to do?

Close your eyes
Breathe slowly
Think of somewhere you feel safe and happy
Try to picture yourself there
Think about what you can see, hear, smell and touch
Remember the happy feeling you had in this place?

How do I know if I'm doing it right?

You can imagine yourself there
You can remember the good feeling you had when you were there
Don't worry if you don't imagine all the senses - most people can't

What else can help?

Have a photograph of your special place
If you can, record the sounds you hear at your special place and listen to them when you visualise
It takes a lot of practice to do this!

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Teaching children to use visualisations

Many children will struggle with this at first. Start with helping children to recognise what is around them and support their acquisition of the language necessary to describe it. It is therefore important to begin with a lot of modelling of what can seen, heard and felt etc. in their present location. Focus on each sense in turn so a session sat on the grass of the school playing field or local recreational park might go like this:

I can see a tree. Can you see it? Is it big or small? How old is it?
I can hear the wind rustling the leaves on the tree. What does it sound like?
I can feel the sun warming my face. Can you feel it? Is it a nice feeling?
I can smell this flower if I put my nose to it. Can you smell it too? Do you like the smell?

Obviously, the nature of the questions you ask will depend both on the location and the age and ability of the child or group. However, your modelling and questioning should aim to achieve three things:

greater awareness of their multi-sensory environment
acquisition of vocabulary to describe the environment
emotionally connecting with the environment

In school settings, this skill is ideally taught as a withdrawn intervention over a number of weeks. Ideally opportunities to visit a range of different local environments should be arranged. This then allows follow up sessions in school to focus on recalling and describing a previous visit. Depending on your location, a short trip to a local park, local shop or local road should be possible and could, if necessary, be combined into one outing.

The final sessions should focus on using the recall of a safe, happy place to maintain calmness and reduce stress and anxiety. Again modelling is important to help children understand. A session might go like this:

When I'm feeling a little anxious or sad I try to think about my happy place.
My happy place is a beach I went to on holiday. When I think of it:
I can see a big blue sky and the sea stretching away to the horizon. I can hear waves rolling into the beach and people playing in the surf. I can smell the salty sea spray and feel the hot gritty sand between my toes. The sun feels warm on my skin and I remember putting on sun lotion. All the family is there and we build a huge sandcastle with a deep moat around it. I could talk about it all day but I want to hear about your happy memories.

Reinforce the need to practice this and using the happy memory when starting to feel sad or anxious.

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Resources

Visualisations

Visualisations

Printable A4 resource containing the above visualisation instructions.

Visualisation Instruction Cards

Visualisation Instruction Cards

Summarised visualisation instructions on handy wallet sized cards.

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Counting In Categories

Emotional Regulation

Visualisation Social Story

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