We remain very grateful to the inspiration of Pauline Vallance, Fiona McGovern and Janine Ryan, the first MISP trainers in Scotland, whose significant legacy was to enable MisaScotland to establish itself and grow as an organisation.
I have been working with the Massage in Schools programme since the first course in Scotland, in 2002. I have been fortunate to be able to introduce the programme directly into a large number of schools, (approximately 15) and indirectly, through training others, into many more.
I think what strikes me most is the tremendous variety of applications. You might think after countless times of going through the routine and other massage exercises, that it might start to feel a bit ‘samey’, but I’ve found that every session is different. Every class or group brings their own energy, ideas and personalities to the programme and that shapes how the programme will go. I always learn from the class with whom I am working, as it is very much a two way process.
I think that this process, as well as the skill of the massage routine, really helps build children’s confidence. They all feel a sense of ‘ownership’. Some of the suggestions from children include using it as an enterprise project, as a Mother’s day present, as a ‘massed massage’ at assembly, and as a way of bringing two schools together. Some of the massage routines they have devised include a ‘going to the cinema’ massage, a ‘pets we own’ massage, an ‘olden times ’massage and a ‘minibeasts’ massage.
The other aspect I really like is that it puts into practice some of the principles of being a good citizen i.e. respect for others, empathy, respect for differences and acknowledgement of feelings. These principles come across in a fun way, by doing and not by talking.
Lets hope that together, we can bring this fantastic opportunity to as many children as possible, all over Scotland.
Working with families
For many years I have been doing sessional work with the social work department , for the local schools and for the child support unit. This work has involved teaching relaxation, yoga , visualisation skills and confidence building skills. With the addition of the Massage in Schools Programme I have found more doors opening, many I could not have previously imagined.
Shortly after qualifying, I was asked by the social work department to work with several families using the programme. These were families challenged through divorce, grief, illness, alcoholism, where communication had broken down and the department wanted to be able to offer something that was positive and fun, a change form form filling. I was excited by the new challenge. Going into other peoples home is not without its challenges. I have had to stop all the neighbourhood coming in for massage in one house.
In most homes there was chaos and a lot of shouting as the only attempt to discipline and create order, but the programme had a magic to it. Once we got started, quiet followed; the children loved receiving the massage and soon learnt how to teach it. The other massage games and stories learnt on the course helped satisfy their demands for more. I guess chaos still does reign in most of these homes but all parents and children experienced something together which was new and positive, which reconnected them in a loving way if only for half an hour a week.
Recently I have come across two of the children now in High School; they talked warmly of the massage and wanted more. One joined in a stress awareness workshop which included a massage routine. They joined in so willingly despite peer resistance, and I feel sure that without the previous experience they would have been the type to bow to peer pressure. Who knows what our work does... the effect of positive touch does last.
I have also been asked to include the programme in parenting groups, in health awareness days and in my infant massage classes. I find the parents love to do the routine on one another and on older siblings. I have used it in my children's yoga classes to help the children to relax. They brought in their favourite teddies to massage if numbers were uneven.
Most recently I have been involved in one to one sessions with parents and their children who have special needs. I use a mixture of the programme, infant massage and baby yoga. We have lots of fun together with much giggling. How good it is to see the parents bonding with their child through touch and recognising their child's uniqueness. I have heard children sing who were thought to be unable to and seen Mums connect with a child who was under threat of being taken in to care.
I have just started helping at the riding for the disabled and have been asked to help the children relax, again another opening for the programme, and there is the chance of an after school club joining in.
For me this programme has opened doors to being involved in a positive fun way with the community. It has brought fun into my work and it has challenged me to be creative. Look at your connections with the community... who could support you, what do you want to bring into your life ? What do you want to contribute? Whatever you give out freely comes back tenfold plus magical moments for free.
I originally trained in Community Education in Edinburgh – qualifying in 1990. I then worked in youth work settings, adult education and went on to spend 10 years working as a home school partnership worker in both primary and secondary schools. During this time I increasingly found myself working on programmes with a health focus leading to a change of employment with the Health Promotion Department in NHS Lanarkshire.
My work within NHS Lanarkshire focuses on improving the health of children and young people and led me to the discovery of the Massage In Schools Programme. I have never looked back!
This programme is simple but effective having many benefits for children (as well as staff and parents). I trained as an instructor, have taught the programme to children both in and out of school settings and have jointly organised over 12 courses in South Lanarkshire Council.
My progression to becoming a MISP international trainer has provided me with a great opportunity to promote the programme, working with children and adults alike. I look forward to sharing my enthusiasm with others!