Art is a wonderful venue for people of all ages. Open the world of art to children and the sky is the limit. Now unlock the wonders of art for a Special Needs child and amazing things can happen. There is a freedom that artistic expression allows us all that naturally puts one at ease and seems to naturally speak to children.
There are multiple reasons that art works so well. Any art project can be easily adjusted to meet the capabilities of the artist. The experience can be a quiet one on one process, a small group project or a group working simultaneously but on individual projects. It's an incredible opportunity to allow a child to work within his/her comfort zone and eventually to nudge them into areas that are less comfortable. It is a beautiful way to watch children blossom and grow!
Traditional art supplies incorporate tactile materials that naturally enhance eye-hand coordination. Clay, paper, paint, glue, feathers, and glitter the options are endless and so are the outcomes. Being allowed or encouraged to make a mess is freeing. Then think about the many, many decisions that are being made as the project is created. Each decision is empowering for the artist and can reveal a great deal about them. Take the time to ask questions and attempt to understand the message that is being created, you may be amazed at what you learn!
Patience is the key to working successfully with children in any situation and art is no exception. Some children will willingly jump into any project while others will need some time to first carefully observe. It is not uncommon for children to feel overwhelmed with the new tactile sensations so take their cues and move forward accordingly. Never force just encourage verbally and model the behaviors or steps. Even watching and quietly observing is a form of learning.
A certified art therapist will typically provide students with 5 or 6 art based tasks that use a variety of materials and can use the artwork to assess the child's perception of self as well as their relationship to family, school, community and environment. Art therapy has been widely used to assist children with learning disabilities, emotional problems, grief, cognitive deficits, serious illness or even some form of abuse.
Children with Special Needs share the same emotions and thoughts as other children though they face a barrier when trying to verbalize their thoughts. Art Therapy can help break that barrier and give these children a voice.