It was long thought that children with learning disabilities couldn’t. They couldn’t learn, couldn’t have fun, and couldn’t enjoy life. We know now that that isn’t true and understand that children, even those with severe cognitive deficiencies, can do all of these things and more. There is perhaps no better way to introduce children to what they can do than by encouraging exploration of the arts.
Music has the power to reach the hearts and minds of people both young and old. The emotions felt listening to and playing music are similar for all people. The Magical Music for Life Foundation explains that children with special needs can benefit from music as it stimulates learning and promotes positive communication. Simple instruments, such as the maracas, triangle, and tambourine, are easy to use and can help kids of all abilities experience rhythm and musical learning.
Learning how to sew can help developmentally disabled or delayed children learn to express themselves through fashion. Likewise, it can teach math and geometry while strengthening fine motor skills. From an artistic standpoint, sewing and cutting scrap pieces of fabric is an excellent way to introduce young children to shapes and textures. HomeAdvisor lists numerous simple sewing activities including how to make a sock monster and more practical skills such as sewing a button.
Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, has long been heralded as one of the world’s most prolific authors. He has sold more than 500 million books, many of which were sheer nonsense. His works have inspired children since the 1920’s to learn how to read, write, and tell their own stories. Dr. Seuss’s mind worked on a level that many of us can’t understand. It’s the same for children with learning disabilities. Their minds are powerful in their own ways, and they have the ability to relate thoughts and feelings either through creative storytelling or creative writing. Activities to help developmentally delayed children get in touch with their creative side include offering a prompt or having them make up a story about an everyday object, such as a cantaloupe. Children of all abilities should be given the opportunity to tell stories as it offers benefits including improved confidence and listening skills.
Singing, acting, and dancing are the three primary activities involved in the art of drama. Each of these offers unique benefits for the special-needs child. Friendship Circle, a nonprofit Michigan-based special-needs resources organization, explains that singing can improve articulation, acting offers freedom of expression, and dance is an exceptional way to explore how the body works. Special-needs children should be encouraged to pursue these activities, although it need not be a large-stage production. Many community-based performance theaters across the country offer special programs for special-needs children.
Many children with what society perceives as a disability such as autism can excel in artistic endeavors that require concentration. This is especially true for autistic children who think in pictures. Visual arts, such as drawing, painting, and graphic design, come natural to many children who are developmentally delayed. It gives them an opportunity to express without words their thoughts and feelings. When it comes to artistic abilities, many special-needs children are on the same level as their average (and advanced) peer counterparts. Kids should be given every tool possible, including crayons, paint, canvases, and sculpting materials like Play-Doh, to create beautiful works of art straight from their own minds.
Not all children will go on to create works of art like Picasso and Bach. And that’s okay.
What’s important is that children are exposed to a wide range of activities, and that includes art in all its forms.
~ Written by Lillian Brooks