Using Art to Enhance Major Areas of Development (page 2)
The focus of art activities used in early childhood special education programs should be on the process rather than product. Art activities naturally enhance all major areas of development (Rubin, 1984).
Art activities provide children with a nonverbal way to demonstrate their understanding of certain concepts (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1969). For example, if the class theme for the week is "big and little," a child might be asked to create big and little objects. A teacher might ask a child to point to a big object and little object in the child's drawing. Children who are nonverbal can often point to something "big" and "little" yet cannot clearly verbally communicate their understanding of these concepts (Beittel, 1974).
Speech and Language Development
Working with children on expressive (ability to communicate) and receptive (ability to understand) language goals can be easily integrated into the art activity of the day. For example, a child's expressive language could be developed by asking the child to talk about what other materials are needed to complete an art project and receptive language could be enhanced by asking the child to put a piece of paper on the table in front of each chair. A child's enthusiasm and interest in art projects, including drawings, paintings, and creating three-dimensional objects, can be used to enhance and elicit language.
A speech and language pathologist may use art activities to encourage children to speak. A therapist could encourage a young child to talk about a drawing by asking questions designed to elicit more than a "yes" or "no" response. For example. a therapist might say, "What color did you paint with today?" Asking children to verbally request different materials or help needed to complete an art activity encourages their use of receptive and expressive language skills (Alkema, 1971).
A speech and language pathologist can design and supervise art activities or assist another teacher or therapist during art activities. The pathologist might tell a child to request the color of paint the child wishes to use. Children who hesitate to communicate verbally are often willing to talk about their art creations. Older preschool children sometimes like to tell stories about their projects and pictures (Anderson, 1978). When this occurs. a child often likes it when a teacher writes down the story and attaches it to the child's picture. To encourage children to talk about their pictures, teachers should say to them, "Tell me about your picture." Teachers should avoid asking children, "What is this')" This type of question might discourage children because it suggests that the teacher cannot tell what the child made.
Motor Development and Self· Help Skills
Art activities can enhancing motor development and self-help skills. Occupational and physical therapists often use art as therapy activities for individual and group therapy (Alkema, 1971). Art activities are used to enhance motor control during activities such as painting with brushes and manipulating clay. Physical therapists use activities such as kneeling or standing while painting to enhance gross motor development. Occupational therapists frequently use art activities when working with children who are tactically defensive, a term that refers to not liking the feel of certain things or getting dirty.
Some children hesitate to participate in art activities. One reason is that such children are unfamiliar with certain types of materials being used during the activity. Children are often cautious when interacting in unfamiliar situations and this includes unfamiliar activities. Many children need a gradual introduction to new types of materials (Alkema, 1971). Ways to help encourage hesitant children to participate are listed in Table 13.1.
Children's self-help skills can be enhanced during art activities by involving them in setting up art activities, putting on smocks, and cleaning up after completing the activities. Children should gradually be encouraged to be more independent in all aspects of art activities.
Young children not only express themselves through their art work but also exhibit themselves in ways quite innocent yet often quite revealing (Rubin, 1984). For example, a young child might draw a picture of a monster believed to be under the bed. This picture could indicate that the child fears monsters or suggest a more serious social or emotional problem. On the other hand, this might not be the case and adults should avoid overinterpreting (Axline, 1947).
Young children often provide information about their emotions through art activities. Some of these messages illustrate typical daily events, but others could indicate emotional problems. For example, a young child pounding a crayon, tearing or shredding paper, or intensely scribbling on a picture might be indicating anger, unhappiness, or negative self-esteem. Unfinished or never-started art projects might be a sign of insecurity or inability to attend to a task for an extended length of time. Children who have negative self-esteem frequently hesitate to complete tasks because the;. believe they cannot do a good job (Cohen, 1974).
Teachers should make sure that children do not worry about making their art project look just like the teacher's or other children's. Teachers should talk about the uniqueness of each child's work by saying something like, "You used many different colors," rather than comparing work by saying, "Your picture is the best." Preschool teachers, therapists, and parents should help enhance children's self-esteem by showing interest in children's creativity and productiveness during art activities. Encouragement could be expressed by teachers saying such things as, "All those bright colors remind me of rainbows," followed by smiling at and hugging the child, all of which may enhance self-esteem (Anderson, 1978).
Children who have disabilities often need extra encouragement. When children feel good about what they create during art activities, these feelings are likely to affect behavior positively during other activities. Art activities should provide time for young children to feel free to expand on classroom themes or "do their own thing" while enjoying the comfort and friendship of their classmates. The fun and enjoyment of art activities naturally elicit socialization, including talking and physical gestures such as a smile, which help develop confidence and encourage creativeness (Kellogg, 1969).
Methods That May Encourage a Hesitant Child to Participate in Art Activities
- Have the child watch the teacher take out and prepare the material for an activity (e.g., mix paints);
- Let the child help take out and prepare the materials with the teacher supervising (e.g., help mix paint);
- Allow the child to help prepare the art area (e.g., cover the table with old newspapers) while the teacher talks about the upcoming art activity;
- Allow the child to observe the activity without active participation. While the child is observing, encourage the child to ask questions and make suggestions about other children's work on the activity;
- Encourage the child to participate in the activity for a brief time while reassuring the child that he or she can quit at any time.
© ______ 1997, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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