Art is a great way to express yourself and provide opportunities to explore new mediums. However, for some children with developmental disabilities, art can be a horrifying experience. When people hear about Autism and the various activities they take part in, art exploration is one that is rarely participated in.
One of the benefits of art for children with developmental disabilities is it allows the client to be creative as well as provide teaching opportunities throughout the session. While engaging in art activities, the goal is not to complete the project to perfection but rather have the client participate in directed activities.
Other advantages with art activities is it provides another opportunity to work on new skills as well as generalize previously learned skills such as: following directions, labeling objects, imitation using objects and fine motor movements, sharing, and turn taking.
Some parents have expressed difficulty when it comes to taking part in art activities with their children. Often times, we expect the child to participate in the activity to the fullest extent the first time and this can create problem behavior. One of the main goals when beginning to explore art is to tolerate different stimuli.
Many children will protest touching certain textures such as: paint, playdough, slime, glue, and even crayons and markers simply because they do not enjoy touching it. This is common in many children, so to increase tolerance to these stimuli the therapist will use a shaping procedure where they reinforce successive approximations to the end goal.
For example, when the client is having a difficult time painting using their hands, you should start off slowly and begin with having the child touch the paint with only their finger and then wipe it off. The next time, you may leave the paint on their finger a little longer, then have them touch their painted finger to the paper, and then paint two fingers, increasing the steps slowly until they have painted their entire hand and are painting freely.
Pairing praise, physical attention, and other highly preferred items can also help make the art experience more fun! If the child does engage in problem behavior during an art related task, it is important to follow through with what the child was directed to do. We do not want to discontinue the art activity due to the problem behavior because if we do, in the future the child will learn that if they engage in any type of problem behavior during art the activity will end.
Art in a group setting can also be beneficial for children. It provides opportunities for the children to model appropriate skills to other children and each child has the chance to create their own masterpiece and even show it to a friend. They can hold up their art work and show their peers, label different parts of their work, and make comments. Research has shown that ABA techniques paired with art activities can improve children’s social skills, specifically spontaneous verbal communication and eye contact.
We always strive to increase the number of independent requests by our learners and art activities provide another opportunity to do so. In group settings, we are able to create opportunities for peer manding which entails responding to peer’s requests, asking for needed and wanted items, and relinquishing items when asked by a peer. Our goal is to promote as many independent responses as possible.
Art does not have to be a daunting activity for children. If you’re creative and show enthusiasm throughout, art can be tons of fun. So let’s get messy!
What are some art activities you like to do with your child?