Matt's Story: Why Art Matters For Kids With Disabilities

Posted November 6, 2012 @ 3:14pm | by Danelle

Matt’s Story:  Why Art Matters

Matt is 15 and and deals with the challenges of his disability every day.  When I first started working with Matt we experimented to find an art medium that he would enjoy.  He struggled with learning new skills and getting through the frustration and “uncomfortable” feeling of not knowing what to do.  After trying various art materials Matt decided that he wanted to draw a detailed portrait of a famous baseball player.  Drawing detailed portraits with pencils (with some of his fine motor struggles) probably wouldn’t have been my first thought for him but ambition is good and should be rewarded.  He had not drawn anything with pencils before. Together we slowly broke down the portrait line by line, practicing how to draw an eye, nose, mouth etc…. It soon became clear that Matt had a great eye for seeing details(once we could get past his anxieties and doubts) and get in the “zone”.  When Matt was in the “zone” he was relaxed, not worrying or feeling anxious and was able to “let” the drawing happen.

Matthew continued to persevere through anxieties and frustrations to learn a few fundamental skills with a pencil. He soon started learning how to follow his instincts.  One thing was building on another.  Through this process there was frustration and emotional outbursts over things not looking right.  What can we do?  Sometimes we have to erase and try again.  Most artists draw things 3 or 4 time before getting it how they want it to look.  This is what we do when something doesn’t go right.  Think about it.  What can we try?  For Matt this was stressful and what he struggles to deal with on a daily basis. But, he continued to work through it.

Matt has a sharp eye for detail and has now started drawing landscapes. He can lay in the lines on a landscape with the right perspective and placement quickly.  He picked this up faster than most people just learning how to draw.  With some good fundamental art skills he can draw on, he can figure out what to do.  He can “work the problem” and figure it out.  He can trust his instincts.  And he solves the problem.  There is less “consulting” with me, less emotional outbursts and more independent thinking.  A little confidence goes a long way.  I consider Matt gifted.  While there are still frustrating moments for him he continues to grow and move forward. 

Why does art matter? It offers a different place to be successful. It matters because it teaches real life skills, and how to follow instincts.  This builds confidence.  It showcases undiscovered talents and rewards thinking and seeing things in a different way.  It provides opportunities to learn how to work through unknowns, setting goals, and the discipline to persevere and figure out how to get to the end result.  Through this process Matt has learned how to regulate his feelings and go through the steps to assess and problem solve without any negative behaviors.  Stop, think, try something. If that doesn’t work try something else. This can happen for anyone at any level.  Even a simple line or color design can begin to promote this process.  This is why the process of creating is valuable and needs to be encouraged and shared.  Everyone should get the chance to begin somewhere.  We never know what people are capable of unless we give them the opportunities to try. 

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