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Kids with special needs: 10 art therapy activities and ideas

There are several art therapy activities and creative ideas to give special children an outlet. Occupational therapy incorporates these activities as per individual needs. Art therapy has proven to bring children with special needs great happiness and build their self-esteem.


November 11, 2019 7:35:37 pm
special needs kids art therapy Art and game therapies improve the child’s self-esteem. (Source: Getty Images)

Dr Vilas Jambhulkar

Raising a child takes a lot of patience and efforts from a parent. Every child is different and their needs differ too. For parents raising a specially-abled child, it’s twice the work and twice the patience. For children with special needs, everything can be overwhelming, hence they feel more and react to their surroundings in a very different way.

These special children need special training to communicate, learn simple everyday tasks and express their feelings, from happiness to anxiety. There are several art therapy activities and creative ideas to give special children an outlet. Occupational therapy incorporates these activities as per individual needs. Art therapy has proven to bring children with special needs great happiness and build their self-esteem. These special children often have difficulty in communicating their thoughts through speech and here is where the art therapy helps. With the help of paint and colours, a therapist can guide children to communicate their feelings and thoughts. Art therapy helps a child with special needs work through issues that trouble their development, like physical, emotional, mental and behavioural conditions. The activities below can be introduced to a child as per an occupational therapist’s guidance.

These therapies help these children to express themselves and also have fun in the process.

1. A health professional would need to understand the need of a child, before starting any therapy. Activities like painting a picture, creative clay art, or building blocks helps the child grow on a personal level, through the use of various creative materials.

2. There is no better way to boost a child’s self-confidence than creating something artistically. Painting activities with cut vegetables or fruits, water splash colours helps in motor, coordination, self-confidence and creativity.

3. Building structures helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Learning Disability. This activity helps their creativity, improves their problem solving and social skills. For an autistic child, breaking from their routine is very difficult, but by building different structures, the child will venture into trying new things and develop creativity.

4. For children with special needs, music is bliss. Dancing helps them express themselves and build their body strength. Music or dance therapy for children with Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, physical disability, cerebral palsy, learning disability, etc, boosts the feel-good hormones in their brain and relaxes them.

Do not ignore signs of special education needs in children. Intervene early

5. Physical play like throwball improves motor skills in a specially-abled child. For children with autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, learning disability, playing games builds endurance and enhances child’s awareness of his or her body.

6. Playing in water is therapeutic. It has proven to help autistic children with their motor, coordination and social skills. Playing in water calms and soothes the child’s nerves.

7. For children with autism spectrum disorders, speech and language delays, creating a sensory bin can help in developing their motor, coordination and problem solving skills. This comes handy in integrating the child’s senses and improves his or her attention.

8. Board games are another way to build self-confidence and social skills in special kids. When at home, parents can try these games and bond with their kids and help them teach social skills like sharing and taking turns.

9. Creativity knows no bounds and for children with special needs, the more creative activities are the more help it is. The other creative way parents can help these kids is by puppets. To increase imagination, emotional intelligence and social skills in children with autism spectrum disorders, speech and language delay, puppets and bright soft toys come in handy. This creates an opportunity for a child to understand abstract concepts, involve in imaginative play and practice spontaneity.

10. Last but not the least, use of technology. Technology has touched all our lives in some or the other way. With technology advancement, children with visual and hearing impairment, speech and language delays gain self-confidence and get a tool to communicate through pictures and voices on tabs. There are many apps that help the child learn and communicate better.

All these activities can be introduced to the child as per an occupational therapist’s advice.

Unicef says play is the basic right for every child and that is no different for a child with special needs. With these different activities, children with special needs understand the world around them and learn problem-solving, build self-esteem and improve their motor and social skills. Art and game therapies improve the child’s self-esteem and are a great first steps for bigger goals.

(The writer is Centre Head, Mom’s Belief V-Care Clinic, Andheri (West) Mumbai.)

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