Educating children about their body parts is just one aspect of a program offered at Lloydminster Sexual Assault Services (LSAS).
The Body Science program shares information with children from kindergarten to 12 years old about the different parts of the body. It is available for children who may or may not have been sexually assaulted and is free.
Of the 347 children and young people under the age of 18 who went through the LSAS this year, 80 of them took part in the Body Science programme. This number does not include programming offered in schools.
The Body Science program can be done one-on-one or public education can go to a school and lead classroom sessions. Additionally, there are resources for parents and caregivers to follow up.
The format is used with children over six to eight sessions, from introduction to naming body parts and functions, helping children identify what is “ok” versus “not ok” touch and who are trusted adults in their lives, says Cassidy Shopland who is a crisis interventionist.
“We explore different feelings or sensations that we might have in our body. So, “not ok” touches can make us feel uncomfortable, sad, or scared, while “ok” touches make us feel happy, safe, and loved.
Shopland, who have worked with LSAS for seven years, explains that one of the resources they use is education cards which show the different body parts and these are used to help children separate, for example , the difference between the feelings of going to the dentist as opposed to inappropriate moving.
“We might have kids who see the dentist’s picture and think ‘oh, that’s not okay because I’m scared when I go to the dentist.
The program is client-centered, Shopland explains, allowing them to be able to adjust sessions when they need to spend more time with a child on topics such as personal space and boundaries or feelings and coping strategies.
Shopland sees the benefits of educating children, parents and caregivers.
“Then we can tell if it’s typical for my child – you’ll know when something isn’t typical for your child. The more we talk and make sure we know the proper names of our private parts, if there was something that unfortunately happened then they are able to say in this disclosure, the proper names of their private parts . The police therefore do not try to explore what this word means.
Shopland adds that the program is highly interactive and adaptable to children’s traits, so if they gravitate towards the arts or body movement, it can be adjusted to suit different needs. Next steps may include the sexual behavior program, therapy integration, self-esteem, bullying, trauma yoga, or other programs needed to help them on their journey.
Shopland emphasizes that their building design embodies aspects of nature.
“When you see our space, it’s so welcoming and inviting – there’s a lot of nature around us. There are many studies that show the benefits of nature on people who have suffered any type of trauma – and so being able to be in this building is really important to us.
The LSAS is hosting its 40th anniversary gala next February. They aim to raise $450,000 to repair the foundations of the building which houses all their services covering a radius of 200 km around Lloydminster.
More details can be found on the LSAS website.