Creer & Crear means Believe & Create. It is a place “where we believe in children and create a future." We are an integrated therapeutic and educational program which focuses on respecting and celebrating the child for who he is. We offer individualized education based on developmental and socio-emotional capacities. We place special emphasis on the total acceptance of the child, mutual respect, and strengthening of relationship capacities. We believe that every child has the potential and the right to grow and develop in a positive way. We do not try to change children into different people. We respect, accept, value, and celebrate them for who they are, and we give them the tools to allow them to live in a world that is not meant for them. In this program, we develop strategies that encourage children to think independently and problem solve successfully. We work on the development of cognitive skills such as independent thinking, problem solving, abstract thinking, and understanding social relationships, as well as on the development of good self-esteem, communication skills and emotional maturity.
Established in 2007, Creer & Crear was conceived as a center for children with alternative learning styles, who need support in each developmental area, including the capacities for relating, communicating, and higher thinking processes. In 2006, with a Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy background, Johanna Crane, the creator of Creer & Crear, started working as a staff member at “Celebrate the Children, SCALS.” That is where Creer & Crear’s story started.
At Celebrate the Children, Johanna‘s job was to coach staff and parents in how to use the DIR®/Floortime™ model. The goal was to help them understand where the child was coming from and the motives behind his behavior, rather than trying to eliminate behaviors. She helped them understand the emotional, sensory, and relationship aspects of the child’s behaviors. Johanna has always believed that once the staff and parents understand why the child is doing what he’s doing, they will be able to respect him and celebrate his individuality. Rather than focusing on changing the behavior, they can help the child acquire the skills needed to live happily and successfully.
Johanna believes that parents play a central role in educating children using the DIR®/Floortime™ model. That is why she insists that the process include parents and family members. She notes that it is essential to remember that the child is a child first. Each child has a special perspective and we must honor and respect his world. When working with parents, the goal is to take the weight off their shoulders, lower their anxiety level, and help them see the wonder in their child. It is up to us to get to know the child.
Although Johanna started out utilizing a behavioral therapeutic approach, she switched to DIR® in 2001 after reading “The Child With Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth” by Stanley Greenspan and “Pediatric Disorders of Regulation in Affect and Behavior: A Therapist’s Guide to As-sessment and Treatment” by Georgia A. DeGangi. Reading these books and learning about DIR®/Floortime™ were inspiring for Johanna. The emphasis on understanding the sensory profile, emotional capacities, and the relationship aspect made sense to her. Finally, she was getting closer to an understanding of the child as a whole. She understood that the child is not sick and does not need to be cured. Instead, he has a world of his own that needs to be celebrated. She fell in love with the theory, and started buying books and attending conferences once or twice a year from Colombia. DIR®/Floortime™ just became her life; her philosophy of life!
After hearing Monica Osgood present at the 2001 ICDL conference, Johanna decided that she needed to close her private practice in her native Colombia and move to New Jersey (US). There, she met up again with Monica who invited her to come to Celebrate the Children. It didn’t take Johanna long to relocate to New Jersey where she joined the staff.
Johanna’s way of thinking and working with children is the essence of Creer & Crear. The philosophy to “respect and celebrate” is reflected in every corner of the Center. Creer & Crear was created in response to an increasing demand in Colombia and South America for treatment and educational programs for children with communicating and relating difficulties. It is a unique program in that it is the second program in Latin America and the first in Colombia to implement the DIR®/Floortime™ model in an educational and therapeutic setting.
After working with children on the autism spectrum for fourteen years, Johanna decided to go back to Colombia and establish her own practice in Bogotá. In September 2008, she founded what was to become the Center Creer & Crear. There, she started expanding the DIR®/Floortime™ model in Colombia and helping the Colombian population develop a better understanding of the child with autism. In Colombia, the therapeutic approach to autism is more behavioral than anything else. Currently, ABA is the only method available for children on the autism spectrum. That is why Creer & Crear is a dream come true. It offers a new method by which we can help Colombian children with autism in a humane and respectful way. Starting Creer & Crear was my biggest dream in my professional life. It has fulfilled and surpassed my expectations. I don’t know of any other place in Colombia where children are celebrated, respected, and educated with the love and affection that I have witnessed here.
In Colombia, the need for specialists who can provide services to train the array of professionals helping children with special needs, including teachers, doctors, and therapists, as well as parents, is overwhelming. There are no available statistics on the number of children on the autism spectrum in Colombia, yet the numbers should be approximately similar to those worldwide. Knowledge and understanding of autism as a condition and not as a disease is lacking. The government and lawmakers are not actively involved in solving this growing problem. Autism is not recognized and most of the time it gets misdiagnosed. There is no governmental aid for families, and therefore, children with autism get no treatment at all, unless they pay for it themselves. Help is desperately needed since many families deny their children’s needs, keeping them at home, hiding them away from the world because there is not enough support or understanding. The stigma is great. Creer & Crear is working towards changing this situation.
Johanna Crane De Narvaez
Centro Creer & Crear
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.