‘Program Links Arts and Autism’ by Jan Pitman

Caroline’s Commentary:

Jan Pitman wrote this article which was published on July 9th, 2014 in ‘What’s Up Muskoka,’ page 14, ‘Program Links Arts and Autism.’  This article was about the pilot project held  throughout 2014.  We met on Thursday afternoons starting at 1:30 pm in the Raymond Community Hall in Utterson, 2013 Hwy 141.

A program that utilizes the arts to promote healing is gaining momentum in Muskoka. Caroline Butson helps families and their children with autism using creative arts classes as part of the Creative Art Adventures Club for Children with Autism.

Butson believes that through the arts she has been able to manage many of the challenges children with autism face. The art stimulates the brain and calms the nervous system alleviating the effects of autism.

She started the Creative Arts Adventure Club at the beginning of 2014 with a trial run of 12 weeks. That proved highly successful, says Butson.
Children in the new program can range in age from five to 16 and are welcome to join the classes with their families or support workers. It is also open to siblings and friends who are not on the autism spectrum.

“We do different activities together, for example story telling, rhythm music, clay modelling or painting,” says Butson. “The paintings are very large, the children paint with the whole body. I am giving them the tools to express themselves because they can’t do it with words. Also, I help parents to connect with their children.”

Up to six families can meet once a week at the Raymond Community Hall at Highway 141, which Butson rents for her classes. The Tree of Life Art Adventures Club is sponsored by the Autism Ontario Potentials Programme and Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

“I would like to hold classes twice a week,” she says, “there are around 600 children in Muskoka registered with autism , and many more children who need help and are not registered. Our classes are simple, light and fun.”

Participants learn social skills along with how to co-operate and respect one another. Parents, siblings and caregivers also benefit and learn to relax with the creative process, so that they can apply these tools at home.

http://eedition.whatsupmuskoka.com/doc/Whats-Up-Muskoka/wum_july9_virtualedition/2014070801/#14

Yes we did it! With a Me to We approach!

It was a long relenting cold winter  in 2014 but in spite of the challenging driving conditions we managed to launch the Creative Art Adventures Club in the middle of winter with 4 families participating. The children came with their parent or their support worker who participated with them throughout the experience, sharing the storytelling, clay modelling, drawing, and painting.
A wonderful volunteer, Lea D. stepped in wherever a helping hand was needed; with registration, setting up the space, or surprising us with a beautiful colorful banner to hang up in the hall.
When the spring finally came, ‘me’ became a ‘we’ as 2 student volunteers joined us, Jasmine and Gabrielle, from Rosseau Lake College, as well as Nicolas from B.M.L.S.S. who assisted with many aspects of setting up the room and providing a gentle pillar of support for the small boys. Hooray we did it!

Portrait-LeaDLea Dooley

 

ClubMay3

 

 

 

 

 

Nicolas D. NicolasSettingUp

Jasmine G.

Jasmine&Coconut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Like a Loving Community Space in Muskoka for Your Exceptional Child?

We are currently conducting a survey. Would You Like a Loving Community Space in Muskoka for Your Exceptional Child?

Would you want a place available in Muskoka, Ontario, to bring your exceptional child on the autism spectrum where they feel accepted and inspired to learn?

The Purpose of this Survey is to learn:

1.  If you would be interested in bringing your exceptional child or student to this community space.

2.  Where exactly in Muskoka you would like this community space to be built.

We value your feedback, and would appreciate if you took a few moments to respond to 10 questions AND write down any specific concerns or questions.

Here is the link to the survey on Surveymonkey.com

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PZVV2BV

'Art & Music is Vital for the Autistic Student' by Caroline F. Butson

All children receive many benefits on multiple levels from art education whether or not they are on the autism spectrum.  However for the autistic child art and music is vital for their growth and development.  Autistic children learn best when learning is visual and by making learning fun.  Besides being a tool for helping the autistic child express themselves, painting and playing music are also a multi-sensory experience engaging the autistic child with all of their senses; visually as well as through touch, smell and sound.  Teaching must be creative and any subject can be taught using art as a tool, including the maths and sciences.

How does art education benefit the autistic student?

I would say that the healing or therapeutic aspect of art is most beneficial in that it develops the inner realm of the child and will help them discover who they truly are and how they fit into the world around them.  Learning how to express themselves with paint and music will help them gain self confidence and self esteem which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.  They often get the message that they are different, they have a disorder or they have an ‘incurable disease’; that they don’t fit in socially to the mainstream.  Children with autism are just as much a part of society as so called ‘typical’ kids especially nowadays when there are one in 88 of children world wide being diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Art and soothing music will help them feel connected to the world around them and to the people in their life; their family and peers in school as well as out of school.   Art is therapeutic in and of itself because it heals on every level physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

A lot depends on how art is taught.  When the teacher can encourage the students and allow them freedom of expression they can play a very positive role. Whereas a negative critical teacher can discourage self expression and turn the student off art and make them feel inadequate or shamed.  It is necessary therefore that the teacher nourish there own creative expression so that they can feel confident within themselves to help the autistic child with their artistic expression.  It is important that the teaching goes both ways; as much as the student learns from the teacher, the teacher must also learn from the student.

Life Cycle of Monarch Butterfly by Evan

 

 

Of course the autistic student will learn basic skills like listening and following directions and using materials properly but the child with autism often does not or cannot understand words so as a teacher you have got to communicate what you want them to learn in other ways.  The teacher has got to be creative in getting across the lesson in other ways than verbally. If the student has not got the lesson then you have to find another way to get the lesson across.

If you have a question or comment please send it to me below or the Contact page.  Enjoy…Caroline

Manifesting the Vision /TREE of LIFE CENTRE for CREATIVITY by Caroline F. Butson

Manifesting the Vision for the new TREE of LIFE CENTRE for CREATIVITY by Caroline F. Butson

The Tree of Life Centre for Creativity, founded by Caroline Butson in 2006 was born out of Caroline’s dreams and those of her circle of family, friends, students and supporters.  We all shared a common dream of creating a living learning centre that would be a wellspring of inspiration, creativity, learning and healing.  It has been a place of peace where people of all backgrounds, cultures, spiritual paths, and ages come together and grow.  The Centre was built around Caroline’s journey to wellness and her vision to build a learning centre for children within the autism spectrum.

The Tree of Life Centre for Creativity has thrived and is now ready to expand!  This new growth will reflect the collective thought of those involved in this project.  To breathe life into this vision will take the efforts and contributions of a collection of  individuals and organizations as well as the children and families who have been participating over the past few years.  The proposal lays out four clear and specific pathways by which the community can contribute in a meaningful way: the pathway to the land, the pathway to the infrastructure, the pathway to the structures of the new Tree of Life Centre for Creativity and the artist’s residence and the pathway to the people.  In order to hold our program in a fun, safe, inspirational environment, we want to build a simple, sustainable, comfortable year round Centre in 2014.

Please visit http://www.tlc4.ca to read further on the Centre’s Mission and Caroline’s background.

Mural by members of Friday Friends at Playsense in Guelph by Caroline F. Butson

On January 20, I was invited to facilitate a group of young adults at Playsense in Guelph, called Friday Friends, led by Nicole Jacobs.  After everyone shared their experience in a circle with Nicole, I helped them express themselves with earth rhythm music and clay modelling.  We created a group floor ‘mural’ with everyone participating fully. They loved this new experience.  Here are a few of their bright drawings.  Nicole assisted me with the Creative Art Adventures classes in 2009 and ’10 in her final year of high school.  This experience gave her direction and helped her find her own mission in life working with autistic youth. This is so rewarding for me to know that the volunteers who assist with our students are receiving valuable experience and the direction to help them find their own life path.

Self Care is a Priority/ Teaching Children with Autism by Caroline F. Butson

I have not written a new blog post in awhile and I was contemplating about that today.  I’ve decided to write about our need for self care since that is what I have been focused on this new year.  I believe self care is a priority for everyone in 2012. I have become a master at self care in order to overcome all the challenges that came with growing up on the autism spectrum and I wanted to share some of this with you today.  Are you easily stressed out, feeling discouraged and overwhelmed by the demands of parenting these children? I wrote an article last month about 8 steps to help you stay balanced in which I made a point of the need for your own self care when you are parenting or teaching children with autism.

We have to learn to listen to and respect our bodies.  Our body will tell us when we need to rest and recharge.  Today I went for a walk in the forest to recharge.  I do this for myself regularly because I feel mentally rested and renewed afterwards and I enjoy being outdoors in nature even when the snow is falling, it is magical to be in the forest.  I saw numerous wild animal tracks; rabbit, squirrel, deer, to name a few.  There is so much to observe in the woods it takes my mind off my problems.  I get grounded and feel good about breathing in some fresh air and getting some exercise.  Now I have to carry my elderly dog, Emma, as she does not always want to go for a walk anymore. Here is a picture of us.  Even though I am relaxing, at the same time I am absorbing and processing elements for a future painting.  Also I was pondering what I can write to you about in this blog!  When I return to work my mind is free to focus.

What do you like to do to recharge?  Share your experience below.

'Steps to Help You Teach Children with Autism' by Caroline F. Butson

You may be feeling grief upon receiving a diagnosis that your child has Autism or Aspergers Syndrome etc. Do not despair! There is hope! Many individuals on the autism spectrum have grown up to have productive, fulfilling lives. Your child can still have a bright future! One out of 120 children coming into the world are now being diagnosed with some form of autism. It appears to be becoming a world wide epidemic. You are not alone. Here are three alternative steps to take to improve your child’s life and your own:

1. Creative expression
2. Telepathic Communication
3. Life Style Changes

It may be helpful to understand that many of them are Indigo or Rainbow children. This means that these children have more activated DNA, they are extremely sensitive, gifted, and highly intelligent. At the same time their speech may be delayed or others may have physical developmental challenges.

As such, children on the autism spectrum are often gifted in painting, drawing, sculpture and music. When you allow them to express themselves in these other mediums, the whole family will benefit. Creative expression is therapeutic in and of itself, as it allows freedom for feelings to be expressed in a safe, fun way. These feelings may otherwise be buried and come out later in a destructive way. For all of us, with or without autism, emotional expression is vital for our health and well-being. It is a normal part of being human. This is why music, painting, and drawing is important for autistic children. It provides them with another language, which may be easier, for the autistic child than verbal expression.

You don’t have to be a professional artist or art therapist to support your child in expressing themselves. You can paint or draw along with them or create music together. If this is a challenge for you, just keep it simple and fun. Try to let go of your inner critic. Art education is vital for the development of the autistic child because it will develop their inner realm, and will help them discover who they are and how they fit into the world around them.

These children have a highly sensitive metabolism which means they may have a tendency to become overwhelmed by large groups of people, large classrooms, noise, and emotion. When they are feeling overwhelmed or over stimulated they can either withdraw further within themselves and from the outer world or they can become more hyperactive, or escalate the situation to have an emotional meltdown. At this point hugging or holding them can feel uncomfortable or even painful for the autistic child if they are highly sensitive to touch or energy. A highly sensitive autistic child may be clear sentient, clairvoyant and telepathic. It is more natural and easier for them to communicate this way. You will learn to appreciate their strengths and what they have to offer the world.

The worst thing you can do is nothing and give up on them. Remind yourself that you are not alone. There is lots of support today in the form of many different kinds of therapies and programs. It is important to find the ones that are suitable for you and your child. Additionally, you may have to make some adjustments in your lifestyle such as looking for alternative choices in education, and housing options to help them adjust. Likewise they may feel better eating a diet of healthy organic fruits and vegetables for the most part.

Your own self-care is most important as you can easily become drained by the demands of parenting or teaching these kids. This is being wisely selfish. Do whatever you need to do to stay balanced and recharged. You know yourself best. Do something you love to do every day so you don’t get burnt out. You are the most important person to influence your child. Continue reading “'Steps to Help You Teach Children with Autism' by Caroline F. Butson”

How to Encourage Creative Thinking in Children Using Visual Art Supplies by Anne Ream

I chose this article by Anne Ream because I agree with what she is saying here.  I believe everyone is born with creative abilities and children need lots of encouragement and praise from adults to develop their innate creativity.  I have found that many adults who do not recognize this creativity in themselves, lost their confidence and creative skills at some point in their childhood or youth possibly from negative feedback or criticism.  If this is so for you do not lose hope it is always possible to get back in touch with your creativity.  In my own experience I failed art in grade school which resulted in me having to get back to it later on in my life.   Your child or student can help you reconnect with your innate creativity.  I encourage you to try drawing and painting along with your child.  The important thing is to let go of your inner critic and just have fun with the experience without trying to make something look realistic or perfect.  Children naturally love to draw and play with clay.  All they need is your positive feedback and for you to set some time aside regularly and create a creative space in your home or classroom.  I know you can do it!   ….Caroline

Drawing by Evan of Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

Drawing by Evan May '10


 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Encourage Creative Thinking in Children Using Visual Art Supplies by Anne Ream

I have a firm belief that everyone is born with creative abilities. My experience is that many people who are not aware of their creative abilities do not understand what creativity is. Unfortunately many people were not encouraged to develop their creative abilities when they were children. This is one way to encourage creative thinking in your child.

Recognizing, developing and using our creative abilities is vital. Being able to stretch our thinking to include creative solutions to our problems, creates new brain cells, increases our choices and enhances our coping skills. The best time to learn creative thinking is during our childhood while our brains are growing. Any adult who is involved with children (parents, teachers, Scout leaders) can help children raise their creativity skills.

Coloring books and “cookie-cutter” art (the type of art in which every child makes the same item) discourage creativity. Although coloring books have a time and purpose, when a child is coloring in someone else’s creation they are not learning how to create something themselves. There is also a purpose for “cookie cutter” art, however, when doing this the child is learning to follow directions from someone else. Genuine creativity is self directed.

The most important step is to understand the developmental stages of drawing. Unnecessary criticism from adults diminishes a child’s ability to grow creatively. When adults respond negatively to children they will be less likely to repeat the activity. Children begin to enjoy drawing by the time they are old enough to hold a marker and will scribble with the marker. Markers are easier for toddlers to use than crayons and safer than pencils. Adult supervision is necessary to make sure the child draws on paper and does not put the marker in their mouth. A gentle reminder that markers are used on paper will generally suffice. If a child cannot comply with this, put the markers away and try again later. Toddlers enjoy learning to control the marker and are beginning to learn about creativity as they create marks on paper. Praising children for their work (“Look at what you can do!”) and putting the work on display will encourage them to continue their efforts.

Gradually, around three to four years of age children realize that lines and shapes actually stand for something and they begin to try to make deliberate representations. It is important to encourage children to continue to explore what they can do with markers and never criticize or change their drawing. Around the age of four children begin to make pictures. Adults can encourage this by recognizing the growth the child has made and expressing their appreciation of it. During this time children will enter a stage called “Named Scribbling” in which they will look at something they have drawn, see a shape that looks like “a bird” or “a frog” and name the scribble as such. Again it is vital to appreciate this creative ability in the child in order to encourage creative growth.

From the age of 9 to about 12 years old children begin to try to make their drawings more realistic. It becomes important to them to try to make their drawings more proportional, to fill the drawing with details, make colors more realistic and learn how to overlap. At this stage children begin to feel frustrated and may ask adults for more help. Those children who have not received adult encouragement may stop drawing. If children do seem interested in being able to draw this is a good time for them to receive some drawing instruction. Drawing is a learned skill. Continue reading “How to Encourage Creative Thinking in Children Using Visual Art Supplies by Anne Ream”