Art can be a great form of therapy for children with special needs, especially those who have difficulties with communicating in the verbal sense. When words can’t be used to communicate or express feeling, art can.

As a mother of an autistic child, I know how difficult communication can sometimes be between parents and special needs children. I’ve learned that involvement in arts and crafts projects can do wonders for the entire family. I always use gold picture frames to display my daughter’s best artwork. Encouragement from parents is an absolute must.

The Art Therapy Credentials Board offers an informative explanation of art therapy and its benefits.

Here are some tips and ideas for other special needs parents out there:

  1. Start out simple – Art creation should be a meaningful, enjoyable experience. The best way to ensure this is to give a child only the basic amount of tools required to complete a simple project. In other words, the best way to start is to let your child do some scribbling or simple coloring.
  2. Playing with clay or play dough – Clay can be fun to simply mold and play with. It’s also an alternative form of art for children whose disabilities prevent them from gripping a crayon or colored pencil properly. Simply molding the clay into certain shapes is a great place to start. However, keep in mind that some autistic children have an aversion to the texture or wetness of clay.
  3. Making sticker/glue crafts – Introduce kids with disabilities to stickers and glue by giving them stickers and shapes to glue down on paper. If you find that your child doesn’t like the feeling of touching sticky stuff, encourage him or her to occasionally tap down on paper substitutes like plastic wrap or contact paper. In time, he or she should begin feeling comfortable touching stickers and glue.
  4. Getting kids to focus more on their art – How can you get children to develop their artistic abilities if they don’t want to look at their work? This can be a problem for parents of ADHD children. One way to get a child to pay more attention to the artwork at hand is to not use ordinary paper; it might not provide enough stimulus. Instead, place a large piece of sandpaper or foil onto the art surface. Kids can paint or draw on these surfaces for extra sensory input. You can also try playing music if your child seems stressed in anyway. According to a post from the Child Development Institute, music “provides stress relief” to children with ADHD and their parents.
  5. Sensory collages – You can buy sensory collage kits online or make your own. Since many special needs children have sensory challenges, this type of project will help introduce them to art in a non-threatening way. I managed to get my autistic daughter to help me put the sensory collage together. You may or may not have the same luck. What you will need is basically a variety of items with different textures: sandpaper, rice grains, aluminum foil, glue, etc., as well as visual elements like printouts of various shapes and image outlines. Put it all together on a poster board ad encourage your child to look at it and touch it.
  6. Digital art – Digital art is great for older kids and teens. For some special needs children, it might be easier to draw or color on an iPad screen with a stylus/digital pen than on physical paper. They might also find art programs like Paint and Photoshop to be interesting and enjoyable.

Regardless of what kind of art you help your child work on, be sure to always compliment him or her on a job well done.

samj-bio-photoAbout the Author

Sam Jones is a digital marketing expert, social media and branding consultant and guest blogger for various publications, including Business2Community, Inbound.org and EZSiteBuilders. In her free time, Sam is an avid traveler, foodie and lover of all things technology. She’s also a fitness fanatic (in the making). 

Text Copyright 2016 Sam Jones, all rights reserved.
Image Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, created on Canva.