By Tina Moore, external contributor
The arts are more than just a fun way to spend an afternoon – for a child with learning disabilities, they can be mentally stimulating, build confidence and provide a means to express oneself. If you’re thinking of getting your child involved, here are a few tips on where to start.
Arts and Crafts
A great place to start is with arts and crafts. Depending on the child’s disability, some options will be more suitable than others. For example, if the child in question struggles with motor disabilities, they might enjoy using play-doh or chalk pastels. For children with autism, natural art has been suggested as a way of engaging with nature and using leaves, flowers, and pine cones to explore their creativity. Whichever you choose, the important thing is that your child is using their body and eyes to produce something which is their own.
If you run out of ideas, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with paints. Choosing paints for children is easy as there is usually an abundance of ASTM D-4236 complicit options, including poster paints, watercolors, and sometimes acrylics. It’s been found that painting increases hand-eye coordination amongst children as well as relieving stress and helping to build self-esteem. It can even be worth considering home improvements to provide your child with a designated space where they can explore freely – the right changes might even increase the property’s value.
Another branch of the arts that shouldn’t be overlooked is those taking place on the stage and through performance, including dance and acting. For those with dyslexia and ADHD, performance arts are an excellent non-traditional route into academia and a means to express themselves with their bodies, rather than their voices. For children with more intrusive disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, it’s also a great way to lean into common stigmas and get comfortable in front of others.
If you’re wondering how or where to get involved with the performance arts, it’s often much easier than you’d expect. There is an abundance of groups across social media, or you could use online directories that are built specifically to connect parents with organizations and children in similar circumstances.
The advantages of music for children with learning disabilities are well-documented – playing an instrument is shown to increase attention span, establish a greater sense of logic and organization and improve motor skills. It’s true, not all special needs are the same, but it’s also true that music holds universal benefits for all who take part in it – in the context of a band, it can be an opportunity to make friends and take on an established role within a unit.
It can be a challenge finding the right instrument for your child – oftentimes it makes more sense to let them pick one out for themselves. You can play music for your child and encourage them to identify the aspect of the music that brings them the most pleasure. Even a simple drum can prove an excellent instrument to help your child engage on a multi-sensory level, helping with impulse control and increasing communication and speech.
Where traditionally academic subjects fail, the arts often succeed. With these wonderfully inclusive practices, it’s never too early or too late to get started and their influences can prove positively transformational.
SALTO-YOUTH, standing for ‘Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities for Youth’ is a network of seven resource centers working across Europe within the youth field. Visit our website at: www.salto-youth.net and learn more about our work.