Art: A Beautiful Thing for a Beautiful Mind
by Lillian Brooks
Children with learning disabilities are often just as intelligent as their traditional-learning peers. However, there are barriers to how well and in what ways a learning-disabled child picks up on information, such as sound or numeric comprehension. Music, art, dancing, and other forms of artistic expression can open doors for these children that can help them make the most of their abilities and learn to better understand the world they are in.
It isn’t always easy, however, to introduce a child – regardless of their academic prowess – to the arts. Keep reading for reasons why exposure to these creative outlets is important and how to make them more accessible to children with issues such as dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, or other learning disabilities.
Learning Through the Arts
All forms of art are considered intellectual disciplines. As such, each requires focus and problem-solving abilities. Art allows these to happen by means of abstract concepts that can be tied to real-world learning needs.
Drawing and Painting
Drawing, although a wonderful way to express feelings, thoughts, and understanding, is also an effective vehicle for learning mathematical concepts, including spatial relationships and geometry. Art allows a child to visualize their thoughts in a way that makes sense to themselves. For instance, a child who cannot concentrate to break down mathematical problems via traditional or common core guidelines may be able to grasp these complex theories by drawing how they perceive the problem in their mind.
Art-based activities for LD children include finger painting, sponge painting, self-portrait drawings by looking in the mirror, and, for younger children, simply copying shapes with markers and crayons. VeryWellFamily.com notes that drawing is an excellent task to help children develop fine motor skills, which is an issue in those with dysgraphia.
Music is another powerful resource for learning disabled children. Listening to and repeating sounds assists with phonological awareness. Children who have trouble learning to read often find the process easier when music is introduced to their instruction. Scientific American explains that “making music improves auditory precision and attentiveness.”
Choosing an instrument for a learning disabled child should be based on their interests. Some children may enjoy the repetitive beating of drums, while others gravitate toward the guitar. Older children with well-developed manual dexterity may find playing a larger instrument, such as the sax, more gratifying. Woodwind instruments, in general, enhance coordination between the hands, ears, and mouth. Playing music boosts confidence in those children who are auditory learners but may have difficulty reading or sitting still.
Beyond Tutoring advocates the use of dance for children that have issues with coordination, motor control, and disabilities that affect reading and writing. Dancing can help improve all of these things will provide learning disabled children an opportunity to socialize. It is a fun activity that teaches rhythm, sequencing, and reinforces a child’s direction-following skills.
Dance therapy is often considered an underutilized practice in children with learning differences and intellectual disabilities. Although research is limited, there is evidence to suggest that engaging children with Down syndrome or other extreme cognitive disabilities in inclusive dance programs has many physical and psychological benefits. Children with learning disabilities may enjoy learning a simple dance such as the hokey pokey, which uses song to motivate and instruct. Other engaging dances include those in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and for those who enjoy toward contemporary music, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silento.
In conclusion, learning through the arts offers the learning disabled child the opportunity to engage in both creative and academic expression in ways that may not be accessible in a traditional classroom environment. Lessons need not be complex, and even self-guided artistic endeavors can provide lifelong benefits.
Image via Pixabay