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Guest Post: How Creative Arts Help Children With Learning Disabilities

Guest Post: How Creative Arts Help Children With Learning Disabilities

I’d like to share an article written by Lillian Brooks of She shares loads of interesting and helpful ideas to support children with learning difficulties. I hope you enjoy it!

The same neurological differences that create learning disabilities such as dyslexia and autism may also be the source of creative thinking and artistic ability, because people with learning disabilities visualize differently than the rest of us. Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz says certain diagnoses correlate with particular strengths, and she suggests that part of addressing a child’s learning disability should involve focusing on those strengths and nurturing their abilities. One way to do that is to provide children with outlets for creative expression.

Disabilities and Advantages

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder makes traditional classroom learning a challenge, but research indicates that students with impulse control issues not only come up with creative ideas, but they are also more likely to implement them. Their very inability to “pay attention” might increase the flow of unusual ideas that lead to innovation. Children with dyslexia tend to score highly on tests of visual-spatial aptitude and pattern recognition, helping them to see things other people might miss. Autistic people are frequently capable of prolonged, very intense focus on minute detail; their perseverating interests can help them to thrive in the right environment. It’s a matter of focusing on strengths while still addressing deficits.

The Hobby Room

A designated space in which your child can work on his or her art projects, free from worry about mess, will encourage creative expression. Child-sized work surfaces with easy-to-clean materials, alongside plenty of storage space, will make clean-up easier. Consider adding a display wall for completed projects. Offer multiple mediums, including paper and ink, paint and canvas, and clay, so that your child can enjoy multisensory experiences. Many children also so an interest in textile arts, such as sewing, knitting, and crocheting, and it’s pretty easy to get started. In fact, there are many online resources to help beginners find their way. For children who struggle with communication disabilities or are even nonverbal, this can be a real outlet for personal growth and improvement. Developing their own personal artistic vision can help them find an alternative “voice.”

Movement and Music

Music education is an effective therapeutic approach for most learning disabled students. Studies show it can help reduce self-injurious and aggressive behaviors and improve communication skills. It can also improve concentration and general cognitive functioning and works naturally to improve coordination and movement. Because listening to music and playing a musical instrument involves multiple areas of the brain, it offers alternative pathways to learning when a student is challenged by traditional approaches.

Dramatic Arts

Children love stories, so get them involved in the process of creating and performing them, and take them to watch professionals engaged in storytelling. Performing in plays is an effective pedagogical tool for fostering a love of drama, but it can also encourage the development of empathy and help students formulate theory of mind. Attending a live performance helps to involve all the body’s senses, and incorporates a level of audience involvement that is never present when consuming entertainment passively in a home setting.

Give Them Inspiration

 Make sure your children have regular trips to art museums and musical and dramatic performances. Take time out of the educational rat race for family field trips to nature preserves and parklands, helping them to find the beauty in their world. Even very young children benefit from such exposure, as it encourages curiosity and intellectual development. Art feeds on inspiration, so feed your child’s sense of wonder and provide them with fodder for their own creative visions.

Children who struggle with a learning disability may be challenged by the traditional classroom learning environment. They may suffer a loss of self-confidence and feelings of embarrassment or shame because of their educational deficits. Arts instruction provides alternative teaching methods and outlets for creative success that can promote a greater sense of self-worth and new venues for personal accomplishment.