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Rationale & Concept

In recent years there has been a growing awareness in the general community of the importance of the emotional life of children. We now understand how some childhood trauma can lead to life long difficulties, and in many cases, the development of mental illness in adult life. There is also a greater appreciation of the neuro-plasticity of the brain, in particular the developing brain of children, and how enhancing their emotional literacy in their early years may protect them from some of life’s difficulties. Emotional literacy may be defined as the capacity of a person to understand their emotional experiences. Children who possess emotional literacy are emotionally aware, alive and connected with themselves. They are better equipped to develop capacities to engage with and manage emotional difficulties they encounter. As a consequence they are more resilient in the face of emotional challenges. ELVA aims to use visual arts as the medium to enhance the capacity for children to be emotionally aware, and emotionally connected with themselves, others and with experiences and situations. It recognises the importance of creating time, space and place for the children to reflect on themselves, their interactions with their social setting and express this within a safe and supportive environment. ELVA is an experience based approach and is therefore fundamentally different from most other emotional literacy programs that are based on skill training or behaviour modification.

ELVA is a classroom based model to enhance the emotional literacy of primary school children through art. Originally funded through a private philanthropic trust, it began in 2010 involving a multi-disciplinary working party consisting of teachers and child psychotherapists, psychiatrists, analysts and psychologists..