Creativity is what kids do best. They have a natural tendency to create and imagine. A child’s story can begin with spaceships and aliens, and in the same breath, change to be about princesses and dragons. Coloring books are filled with castles and monsters as their imagination runs riot across the page. Counsellors at LSESD’s SKILD Center have found that the creative flair children have is a great way to help them express their emotions as well as teach them important values.
Art and crafts are taught to encourage self-expression in the Life and Social Skills area at SKILD Center. Art is a way to cut across all communication barriers for children with individual learning differences. Through an art project, a counsellor can connect with an individual student and develop a relationship built on acceptance and appreciation. As the child learns that this is a safe place to create and have fun, wellbeing generally improves. One such child is Ahmad* who began drawing and using art to express his feelings and tell stories about himself. This was the only way to help him express what he was feeling. Through his art, the SKILD counsellor learned more about Ahmad and how she could help him in certain situations.
Values like inclusion, respect of others, and tolerance of differences can be taught through arts and crafts too. During a recent activity at a public school where SKILD operates, the children worked with counsellors to paint a picture describing a scene which represents inclusion of differences (picture above). In another activity, students celebrated diversity through art (picture below).
The activity highlighted the importance of variety to create a unique and beautiful environment because each student’s hand and finger print on the wall was slightly different in size and shape. By collectively creating this painting of trees, they were taught the importance of collaboration and working together to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
“All children benefit from art, but especially children with learning differences,” says Audrey Gibson, a Special Educator working at the SKILD Center. The Life and Social Skills Program at the Center allows each child to explore their own abilities, learn through process, and gain a sense of accomplishment and mastery. “Some children we work with have difficulties with their behavior and can easily get frustrated and have outbursts of emotions,” Audrey explains. “In my personal opinion, using art for these children allows them to vent their emotions, both positive and negative, while doing it in a healthy way.”
From the beginning of human history, we have drawn pictures on the walls of caves because art gives us a way to make sense of the world we live in. The arts give light to our creativity and imaginations. The SKILD Center allows this primal instinct to be a part of its curriculum for a better understanding of students and their internal worlds. Teaching students to express themselves and demonstrating important values through art will help create a more peaceful world, filled with more compassionate, understanding, and creative people.
Caitlin Bylina | Project Coordinator