I am often asked: “How do I support the artistic development of my disabled child now and as he grows up? What community resources are available for him?”
I believe it is very important to identify and cultivate the artistic skills and interests of children with disabilities. There are several reasons for this. First, art gives these children an opportunity to be successful. Second, art gives them a way to communicate. Third, art improves development by involving a variety of cognitive, sensory, and motor skills.
I have a few suggestions to offer about where to look for art opportunities in the community:
* Consider enrolling him with a private professional art teacher. This is better than a class as he will get one-on-one attention. However, depending on his issues, many may not be equipped to handle or address his special needs. Be sure to ask about the art teacher’s specific skills.
* Consider a summer art camp. One that offers a spectrum of art experiences would be great. He can explore a variety of art mediums and decide what he likes or dislikes and what he may want more training in.
* Consider encouraging his classroom teacher to write for a grant to have an artist-in-residence. Artists-in-residence offer students an opportunity to work on a quality project over an extended period of time. These projects may be purely art or art in support of academic and/or IEP goals.
* I would encourage you to look for a high school with a strong art program.
* As your child approaches adulthood, there are many non-credit classes available in a variety of art mediums through local universities and community colleges.
Resources vary by community. You may be surprised to find a wealth of opportunities just waiting for you to tap into.
Bailey Earith is a professional fiber artist. She uses her 25 years experience as an occupational therapist to empower people with disabilities through art education. She has been published extensively for her innovative work with disabilities. She lectures and teaches classes and seminars across the country. Topics include: Special Art for Special People, How to provide art experiences to people with disabilities for parents and teachers, and Artist-in-Residencies.
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