What is ITQS
The Development of “In the Quiet Space” Program
The “In the Quiet Space” program was developed by a group of professionals from the north of Israel: Mark Cohen, Doctor of Philosophy and an Alternative Educator; Pamela Mond M.A., Drama Therapist and Special Education Teacher; Janet Nimenov B.A., Movement Therapist and N.L.P., and Mimi Samoucha M.A., Supervisor in the field of Autism.
At that time the Israeli Ministry of Education was looking for solutions to the rapid increase in behavioral problems in Israeli schools, especially violent behavior. Against this backdrop we began to work on a program that could strengthen positive social behavior in schools. We saw, first-hand, how children were struggling to cope with the many developmental, learning, and social issues that were arising for them at school, at home and in the community.
We understood that a new way was needed to help them with these difficulties. We came to the conclusion that the children needed to experience a different environment, a sanctuary of sorts; a calm and secure environment.
Inspired by the example of multi-sensory environments such as Snoezelen rooms, Pamela helped create a special sensory room in the Child Developmental Center in Tzfat.
But it was only after Pamela was introduced to Conditioned Calming by Mimi Semucha, a supervisor in the field of Autism that the In the Quiet Space Program really took off; Mimi had been using Conditioned Calming to help autistic children cope with temper tantrums. Pamela integrated Mimi’s Conditioned Calming into her work, and with changes began to use what came to be called MicroCalming, the ITQS self-calming technique with even the most challenged children.
The combination of a special sensory environment and a self-calming technique by means of which children could cope at a time of pressure from a place of inner quiet, provided the basic foundation for the ITQS program.
After being initially implemented within the Child Development Center at Rivka Ziff Hospital, The ITQS program was introduced into two primary schools through the initiative of the Regional Support Center for Special Needs in Education. (M.A.T.I.A.) Since then the program has been implemented in nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and afternoon centers.
Over the years ITQS has branched out into health, education and welfare settings; such as kindergartens, children’s hospital ward; women’s groups; children’s social skills groups; creative arts therapy clinics; and absorption centers. Participants in the program have been Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic and English speakers.
In 2007 the ITQS Center was established in the Old City of Tsfat in order to promote the following goals:
1) To provide children with a self-calming coping skill, MicroCalming, which they can access whenever and wherever during times of stress.
2) To nurture togetherness (in families/children and adults) in an environment in which there is respect for everyone’s physical and emotional boundaries. When children really feel the safety and respect in such a special place then they can recognize that the other also has a place there too; when they feel that they are being heard then they are ready and able to listen to others and show them respect.
3) To provide a special sensory environment which helps children be more attentive and enables them to enter their inner world where they can experience a feeling of calm and quiet and feel secure.
“In the Quiet Space”
The two main elements of ITQS are the setting up of a simple sensory room/corner and the teaching of MicroCarming, the conditioned self-calming technique, in the room.
The components of the sensory environment are specifically designed to encourage an atmosphere of trust, calm, and quiet. The colors are soft and soothing; there is low, pleasant music; lights are soft; there is a pleasant aroma in the room; and the furniture or floor cushions are soft and comfortable—it is as if each of the senses receives a gift that quickly reduces tension in body and mind.
Within this quiet and pleasant environment, where speech is quiet and limited, we teach a technique of conditioned calming, which systematically associates a gentle cue with a positive physical and emotional state. The special cue or key words are three Hebrew words: Naim, Shaket, Ragua (in English: Nice, Quiet, Calm). The cue words radiate tones that are phonetically pleasing and echo the essence of the words. The learning, too, is easy and pleasant, and when practiced daily for five minutes over a period of a month, the feeling of calm becomes conditioned.
In short, the brain learns to associate the three key words with the feeling of trust, quiet, and security experienced when one is in the Quiet Space. Subsequently, when a child says the anchor words silently in his or her heart at a time of pressure—no matter where the child is at the time—the brain automatically sends a message to the body: to calm down. The child then immediately reconnects to the profound feeling felt in the Quiet Space.
The result is an ability to think more clearly, and then cope with pressure from a place of higher functioning—no longer responding with old, ingrained patterns of past behavior, but with new, positive avenues of action
MicroCalming is a self-calming intervention that generates self-control. It enables children (and adults) to reach greater independence and control over their emotions and behavior, to solve problems in a healthier way, and to connect more deeply to others and to themselves.
“What Happens inside the Quiet Space”
During the entire time that children are in the Quiet Space, we ensure that the atmosphere is quiet and relaxed, that the children walk slowly to and from their places, and that every child’s physical and emotional boundaries are treated with respect.
Over the years, we have developed a number of simple, yet profound, rituals which have made the ITQS program very special. These rituals signal to the children that they are making a transition. They are moving from one kind of space to another kind of space; from one kind of atmosphere to another kind of atmosphere. For instance, when the children enter and leave the Quiet Space they do so one at a time. Each child is greeted personally and invited to choose a place to sit, in silence.
Inside the Space, sharing is an important part towards the end of the experience. There is no pressure to share, but the children are invited to speak about experiences they have, both in and out of the Quiet Space. The children speak one at a time, and the child who is speaking must hold the “talking box,” whilst everybody else listens.
The talking box is passed from hand to hand, accompanied with a small gesture or bow. This gesture means that one child has spoken, has finished speaking and is now passing the right to speak to another child. It is a ritual of mutual respect. In our experience, the children instinctively understand the meaning and import of these rituals, and they love doing them.
When children really feel safe and comfortable in a special place, then they can recognize the place of another. When they feel that they are heard, then they are ready and able to listen to others.