For my Extended Project Qualification, I wanted to explore topics outside my Psychology A-level syllabus to broaden my knowledge of the subject. I chose the title of ‘How Effective are Stories in Helping Young Children to Cope with the Effects of Childhood Trauma?’ as I felt it would allow me link together my three A-levels – English Literature, Biology and Psychology – whilst also allowing me to develop my independent research skills. I wrote and illustrated a therapeutic story for children aged 4–7 suffering with the effects of grief, entitled Sammy Feels Better; the story follows a young whale who is looking for a way to cope with his mother’s death. Sammy goes on a journey to ask his friends how they make themselves feel better when they are sad and eventually meets Olly the octopus, who helps him to realise that it’s okay to talk about how his feelings and guides Sammy to find that ‘special person’ he can talk to.
Before writing the book, I did research into the pros and cons of saying the mother had ‘died’ as opposed to saying she had ‘gone to sleep’, and the influence of the colours used in the illustrations. I initially used water colour to create the illustrations and then edited them in an online Photoshop tool to make the colours more vibrant and appealing to children.
During the writing process of my EPQ I decided I needed to get feedback from people who worked with children and counsellors to assess the effectiveness of my book. I first sent it to an Oxfordshire primary school and whilst it was there a member of staff unfortunately passed away and the school used other bibliotherapy books to help the children understand how they were feeling. This made me realise how much of a need there was for this type of therapy and helped me to see how my book could be effective in everyday life, which gave me the motivation to complete my project to the highest standard possible in the hope of helping someone to cope with the effects of grief.
Overall, completing the EPQ has taught me about the importance of effective time management and independent research skills, as well as allowing me insight into a world of psychology beyond our syllabus. I am hoping to study psychology at university and later complete a clinical psychology doctorate and specialise in working with young children and I feel that this project has given me a head start in that field.