Satchel Cundiff is a full-body talker.
When he speaks—which is often—he uses his hands and arms and legs and head to illustrate what he’s saying. Arms flail, legs bounce, head ducks down. No matter what he’s talking about, he’s enthusiastic about it.
Right now, he’s enthusiastic about art.
In the H*Art Gallery in Southside, he and UTC Occupational Therapy student Michaela Banks are making art. Stars hang from copper wire attached to a blue base shaped like crescent moons.
The pair sit around a table with three other OT students, making art. The students get hands-on experience by dealing with the children; the kids get a chance to be with others who deal with an always-present part of their lives: Epilepsy.
Called Studio E: The Epilepsy Art Program, the program began in 2011 nationwide and began in Chattanooga three years ago, Brick says. This is the first year, however, that UTC students are participating.
“In occupational therapy, we have a term called ‘therapeutic use of self’ and we believe that,” says student Emily Hook. “Developing relationships is key to the therapy process.”
Jackie Brick with the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee notes that, being around other kids with epilepsy gives them relax and just be kids without fear of being judged.
“A lot of kids with epilepsy kind of close up and don’t want to talk about it,” Brick says.
Ian Cohen, whose daughter, 10-year-old Ella, is one of kids taking part in the program, notes that “kids in general have self-esteem issues. And when you have a special need, it can create its own challenges,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for her to get her hands on and get messy without worrying about anything.”
Ella’s mother, Allison, says her daughter didn’t express interest in making art until she joined the Studio E project.
“It brought out the artist,” she says.