Now Go Be Normal
by Suzanne Whitaker and Amy
Now Go Be Normal is a game board with 4 players. Each player is given their own biography, a short explanation as to how the teen has come to be a foster child and then a foster teen aging out of the system soon. Each player has a path on the game board, choosing life cards that will either send them forward or backward on their individual path. The cards describe typical scenarios for these teens/young adults “the obstacles, behaviors from trauma, opportunities, agencies and resources and often the lack of resources.”
This is a demographic that could easily “fall through the cracks” of society. We want this game to make clear the obstacles, but also show the possibilities that could be created to make them more ready to join society as a successfully equipped adult.
About the Process
Written by Suzanne Whitaker
It struck me one day that this “Game of Life” can be such a series of hits or misses, bad circumstances, and just a lot of moving parts that may or may not fall into place.
Listening to their stories, it really felt like a game of obstacles, roulette, chance meetings … Comparatively, I also thought about how relatively easy my own growing up was, how “normal” families played board games on a Friday night in my suburb and the consciousness of simply surviving was simply not at the forefront of our lives like it is for these teens, which is how the game board came to be.
So, in visualizing the actual game board, I began to see in my mind’s eye a rugged terrain, cracks in the surface, how they could “fall into the cracks of society,” a large gap, a colored path like in a game board, steps forward, steps backward, a spinning wheel from the original game board of Life, and a stack of (literal) cards – stacked against them but occasionally stacked in their favor should they find the resources or the mentors they need.
Meet the Team
Artist: Suzanne Whitaker
Suzanne Whitaker has been a muralist for 30 years, an artist all of her life. She received a B. F. A. in Painting from the University of Cincinnati, and began her business as a muralist/decorative finisher in 1993. Whitaker’s murals have been documented in her book, Creative Kids: Murals You Can Paint!
In 2005, Whitaker moved to Phoenix from Ohio with her young son and daughter, and began designing and painting murals for several schools in our Ahwatukee community. Today, she focuses more on fine arts again, creating portraits for the Noteworthy American Women Project (partially funded by the AZ Commission on the Arts) and continuing with murals and developing contemporary finishes.
Researcher: Amy Armstrong-Heimsoth
Dr. Amy Armstrong-Heimsoth is the Department Chair & Associate Clinical Professor for the Department of Occupational Therapy at Northern Arizona University on the PBC. Dr. Armstrong-Heimsoth has over 25 years clinical pediatric experience across all pediatric practice areas including: neonatal intensive care, intensive care, cardio-vascular intensive care, outpatient, early intervention, home health and school based practice.
Her research interests include neurodevelopmental disabilities and impact on occupational performance, motor and sensory development, influences of trauma on development, children in and aging-out of the foster care system, and parent empowerment through education. Dr. Armstrong-Heimsoth has been conducting research with this population for the past 5 years. Dr. Armstrong-Heimsoth was awarded Outstanding Occupational Therapist of the Year in 2019 by the Arizona Occupational Therapy Association.