This article is a guest post from writer Lillian Brooks.
The many benefits of involving children in arts and music are well-documented. They are an essential part to any child’s growth and development. For children with special needs or disabilities, arts and music are also a way for them to better connect with the world and can offer them a new mode of expression.
1. Play to the Senses
Children love tactile experiences, so do not be afraid to engage their senses. If you’re doing arts and crafts, use materials that offer a range of textures. Clay, beads, and yarn are known to be very therapeutic. Letting them use their hands is an excellent way to improve motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and it can also be a lot of fun for those who are visually impaired.
Keep in mind that some children have sensory-processing issues and can have an extreme reaction to something they do not like. Parents Magazine reminds you that this acting out is not intentional. Try to be patient and calmly react to the situation.
2. Work with Them
Children with disabilities sometimes need extra guidance and help. If they are attempting to complete a specific project, make sure they understand the instructions completely. It is not uncommon for children to be too embarrassed to ask for extra help. Come up with multiple ways to describe the project and break it down into smaller pieces. Give hearing impaired instructions through sign language and allow visually impaired children to touch objects.
Depending on the disability, you may need to physically assist them with the project as well. Plan ahead and use materials that will work for them. Those who require more assistance may need you to do it for them. Let them take the lead and instruct you how they envision their piece.
3. Feel the Rhythm
Along with the skills and confidence gained in mastering an instrument, music is a great tool to promote your child’s cognitive development and improve their focus. For children with disabilities, it can also be used as a fun way to overcome some limitations they may face.
Learning an instrument has been shown to help emotional and behavioral disorders as well as help those with ADHD and learning disabilities focus. Percussion instruments, in particular, have been shown to greatly improve motor skills. Saxophones and clarinets are popular favorites for those interested in picking up an instrument.
Meanwhile, children with speech and language barriers can greatly benefit from vocalization. There is even music designed to help them overcome this barrier.
Dancing has also been shown to be a great form of expression. It is a chance for your child to let loose. My Child Without Limits also notes that dancing helps promote social behavior and can keep your child from feeling left out. It also encourages social awareness and coordination and can be a fun source of exercise.
4. The Power of Positivity
A little positivity goes a long way with kids. Avoid asking, “What is it?” Instead, describe what you see, such as, “I really like the use of blue here.” For most children, art is representational. With the right prodding, you can ask them to describe it to you while encouraging them to look deeper at their art. This will teach them to look for greater meaning in their work.
Let your kid explore and experiment. Much of art is about the process rather than the end result. This is especially true of disabled children who use this creative space to relax and express themselves. Family Friendly Fun encourages you to practice patience. Putting pressure on them to recreate something or following strict instructions can make them feel anxious and stressed, which can cause them to resist the activity. If this happens, it is best to back off.
5. New Means of Expression
Children can gain a lot by participating in the arts and music, and having a disability should not hold them back. Step in and provide assistance where needed, but ultimately, this is their space to express themselves. A little positivity can go a long way in creating a lifelong passion.