American singer, songwriter Michelle Malone said, “Art is so subjective—it means something different to every person. The important thing for it to do is to touch on the senses and emotions.”
I believe the biggest value in art is that it has no borders. It can be created by all, interpreted by all and enjoyed by all. It is definitely one of the areas where people with and without disabilities can bond.
In an October 2016 article, author Leigh Marcos outlines the benefits of art for those living in the spectrum. Although she acknowledges the value of art therapy she also suggests that simple art projects can also provide value.
“Art projects in themselves are not a substitute for art therapy,” recognizes Marcos. “They may be a good starting point for those who have problems accessing traditional therapy.”
Marcos also states that art projects are more than just working on a project. It actually can encompass many steps, each providing its own particular lesson for the individual. Marcos breaks up the projects into many stages. She begins with assessing each individual to decide what project will best suit them. The most important thing to remember is that the art projects should feel fun so it should be something in which they have an interest. It is also OK for them to decide after trying something that they don’t enjoy it and should try something else. Marcos suggests starting with easy, low-cost art projects such as finger painting, making puppets or clay molding.
When it is time to gather supplies, have the person help by creating a budget that can be used for items that must be purchased. However, allow them to also be creative by finding things around the home or even in nature that can be used. Make sure to plan ahead to avoid running out of supplies in the middle of the project. This can be a simple distraction that can result in a loss of interest for the process. Also, make sure the supplies are adjusted to be accessible to the person. An example given is that fat pens or markers can help with fine motor difficulties.
Since the goal is to make the project enjoyable, make sure that you have the time necessary to enjoy and complete the project.
“Pacing is necessary so as not to overwhelm a child,” reminds Marcos.
Marcos also reminds us to assist the person, but don’t lead, by encouraging them to do the work by themselves. Also, watch and listen for clues that they are getting frustrated. Encourage the individual through the process by reminding them that their work is special and unique and art is about the process not the outcome.
When the project is complete, Marcos suggests that you encourage the person to discuss their work and explain what it means to them. Allow them to hang or display the piece on their own. She also suggests that you encourage the person to share their art with others to have that feeling of accomplishment and be acknowledged for their work.
Fortunately, in our valley we have the benefit of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism and their annual “Super Spectrum Showcase and Soiree” that provides a public yet safe place for individuals of all ages on the spectrum to display their work. The center is currently asking for art in any medium be submitted by Sept. 1. If you have anyone interested in submitting art please contact Laurie Bowen at (801) 863-8759 or Laurie.Bowen@uvu.edu.