Archive for February, 2011

I have just heard that Australian artist/film maker Shaun Tan has won an Oscar for his short film, ‘The Lost Thing’, along with Andrew Ruhemann. Congratulations!

The Lost Thing

I first heard of Shaun Tan when I read his illustrated book, ‘The Arrival’. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, he is a fantastic artist and illustrator who has ‘written’ several picture books. I had never ‘read’ an illustrated book before, and was amazed by ‘The Arrival’. There are images in this book which capture an amazing depth of emotion which I think would be almost impossible to express in words. I think it allows the ‘reader’ more freedom to interpret  the story for themselves.

The Lost Thing

The Oscar was for a short film based on one of his books, ‘The Lost Thing’ and it is a beautiful film, narrated by another West Australian Tim Minchin (a musical comedian is the best descrption for him!) Shaun Tan is originally from WA, although now lives in Melbourne.

Shaun Tan’s website is also beautifully illustrated and has information about his books, art and film. I hightly recommend that you check it out.

Shaun will be a keynote speaker at the joint Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Australian Association for Infant Mental Health conference in Perth, Western Australia from May 12 to 14th 2011. I am lucky enough to be talking (on psychiatry and writing) in the same forum as him. How’s that for a hard act to follow!


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At around 18-24 months, children begin to enjoy scribbling: they are able to draw a squiggle and tell you that it is a ‘lady’ or a ‘doggie. This is the stage at which children use  symbolism, ie representing things with symbols. Language is also a form of symbolism, as well as art.

This has been described by the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget as part of the ‘preoperational reasoning’ stage of child development, beginnning when children are around 2 years old. Children also start to use pretend play at this stage.

In child psychiatry, we use play as a method of communication and ‘therapy’ with children, as play is used by children in the same way as complex language is in adults. A child will explore events that they have experienced, or worries that they have, through play. For example, a child who has been traumatised may act out that trauma with their toys, or a child who is being bullied may reenact this with toy animals.

This developmental stage is a huge leap for children who previously could only express their frustrations directly, such as by crying when upset. It is exciting for both the children and their parents.

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