I was recently interviewed by a teacher for students with autism in the Bronx who is also a graduate student doing research. Her question was “Do existing art programs facilitate/support the communication needs and engagement of students with autism?” This is a great question especially where students are not receiving regular art instruction. Here is the beginning of my answer:
” I’m not sure that existing art programs support the students with autism
or not as I am not familiar enough with them however I do know that
autistic children learn best when the teacher can be creative in making
learning fun and teaching using lots of visual tools.
Any subject can be taught using the creative arts. This is what I am
trying to do here at the Tree of Life Centre for Creativity with the
Creative Art Adventures. Waldorf education is one other example of this
way where every subject in every grade is taught creatively. I know there
has to be less emphasis on fancy techniques and drawing realistic and more
emphasis on encouraging to use all the creative tools available and keeping
it simple for everyone, both teacher and student. It’s all very simple just
be who you are and express who you are and let go of other’s expectations of
who they want you to be. A teacher is one of the most influential person in
the life of a child and having an attitude of acceptance and encouragement
is key to teaching a child on autism spectrum. Accentuate the positive and watch how the child with autism blossoms! They have a lot of gifts and talents to offer. They will gradually come out of their shell in their own time and when they are ready.
Creative expression needs to be a part of the daily life in the classroom and at home. It’s not enough to just have 45 minutes or one hour a week in
the timetable for an art class. That is a good start but not enough.
Art needs to be woven into the daily fabric of society at every level. Art, poetry and music is what makes us human beings and not bio robots.”