~Robert L. Lynch
A guest article by Lillian Brooks today focusing on helping children with learning difficulties be excited about the arts. Take it away, Lillian!
Getting Children With Learning Difficulties Excited About the Arts
For children with learning difficulties, the arts can be like brain training and therapy all rolled into one. The list of benefits is a long one: better language skills, improved problem-solving abilities, more confidence, reduced stress, and more friendships, to name but a few. OK, so you’re sold on the idea. Now, how do you get your child interested, too? Here are a few different approaches you can take.
Set Up a Hobby Room
Visual arts, like painting, drawing, and sculpture, are very beneficial to children with learning disabilities. As PBS Parents discusses, visual arts help kids to process concepts that they struggle to express in language, and help them develop their creativity. However, a big concern you might have is the mess making art can create. The solution is to set up a hobby room. Cover surfaces and the floor with sheets or plastic mats, and let your kids create without worrying about the mess they will make. If you don’t have a whole room to spare, you could set aside a corner of one room to use, and keep sheets and mats stored away when not in use.
Have Sew Much Fun
Are you short on space for a hobby area—and short on patience for messes? Don’t worry. Your child can still participate in visual arts with nothing more than a needle and thread! Weaving has been shown to be particularly soothing for children with ADHD, but no matter your child’s abilities, creating basic sewing projects, such as adding buttons to garments and making pillowcases, can be a calming, mess-free activity. If your child has sensory issues, be sure to let them pick their own fabric and other materials. Many children with learning differences prefer soft fabrics over rough, scratchy cloth, so take a field trip to the craft store to let your little one find their favorite material to stitch into something beautiful.
Buy a Musical Instrument
Many children with learning disabilities thrive in the field of music, due to it being a nonverbal communication method. It is also superb for brain development because not only does it sharpen their auditory skills, it also helps develop hand-eye coordination, while the pattern recognition developed from interpreting sheet music carries over to reading skills. It’s no wonder, then, that music can have benefits for children with learning disabilities, including reduced aggression, better communication skills, and improved psychological well-being.
Start by asking your child what instruments they might be interested in, and take them to a few trial lessons to see how they get on. Many clubs give you the first lesson free to see how your child takes to it. If they like it, get them an instrument of their own to practice with.
Take Them to a Dance Class
Dance can help children to develop their motor skills and coordination, and it’s a great option for kids with excess energy. You can find dance classes that cater specifically to children with learning difficulties or with special needs in general. Such classes often have less of a technical focus and more of an expressive focus, encouraging kids to convey whatever they are feeling in that moment. This Huffington Post article describes what these classes are like. Alternatively, you could take your child to a conventional class, which will focus more on things like technique, accuracy, and precision. Classes like this are great for building memory due to the complex steps that kids must remember, and they often come with a chance to perform on stage.
Go to Performances and Exhibitions
You might be able to inspire the desire to create art in your children by taking them to see some great art or performances. Most galleries have free exhibitions at various times of the year, or you could take them to see a live performance by a dance troupe or a band. Try to find something that’s age appropriate for your child or that they have an interest in. Six-year-olds might not appreciate the nuances of “Swan Lake,” but they may love a contemporary street dance performance. Likewise, many children get interested in drawing by copying comic book art featuring their favorite superheroes.
Get your child involved by asking them about things they’d like to do, but remember that they won’t know what they like until they try it. Be prepared to spring a few new ideas on them—at the very least, it will be an interesting new experience for them. If you’re persistent and willing to experiment, you’ll soon find something that they like.