When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. I spent countless hours in my bedroom playing school with 12 of my favorite stuffed animals and dolls as my students. I was a strict teacher (most likely influenced by my years of Catholic school education) and I would assign very lengthy writing assignments to my “students.” Of course, since my “students” were unable to write for themselves, I was tasked with crafting 12 stories in 12 distinct writing styles. That’s when my love of writing children’s books began. As I grew older, things changed. This was the 1980’s and our family got CABLE TV! Gone were the days of playing school in my bedroom and creating imaginative stories. Now, my free time was filled with endless options of reruns, cartoons, talk shows, and MTV.
Years later, as a student at the University of South Florida, I received a calling to major in social work. I wanted to save all the abused children in the world. Eventually, I received a Master’s degree in Social Work from Florida International University, and spent almost 20 years as a children’s psychotherapist (with the exception of a few years in between where I owned and operated a children’s tea party business). As a therapist, I worked primarily with children in foster care and developed a fascination with understanding trauma in children and its impact on the developing brain.
In 2006, as a member of Toastmaster’s International, I entered the speech contest with a moving speech about a childhood experience with a bully named Nancy. That speech took me all the way to the District competition, where I competed against the best speakers in the State of Florida and the Bahamas and won.
This speech on bullying and compassion inspired so many adults, I thought it would be a great message for children as well. In 2015, Shantelle, You Smell! was published.
My soon-to-be published second book, Brian’s Brain, was inspired by an 11 year old client I was working with in therapy. He was struggling with emotional and behavioral problems as a result of years of early childhood trauma. During one of our sessions, he expressed frustration regarding the difficulty he was having controlling his aggression. He wondered why he reacted with such violence and rage over minor events. I explained to him what trauma was and how it affected his brain. He was so excited about learning this information that he took copious notes, with diagrams and everything! He then asked me, “Ms. Shantelle, can you write this down for me so I can remember it?” I said, “Sure!” At the next session, I gave him his “book.” He loved and treasured that book. It helped normalize his experience and minimized his belief that there was something wrong with him. I shared the book with other clients who also found it helpful. It was a joy to hear my clients tell me, “That was my amygdala acting up again.”
I want to continue to create stories and heal and inspire children. In addition, my early training in teaching fueled my desire to create Playworks Magic (www.playworksmagic.com), a continuing education training program for mental health professional to enhance their knowledge and skills of trauma and play therapy.