HOW ARTS AND CRAFTS HELP CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

By Jenny Wise

The arts have long been linked with improving childhood learning. From increasing cognition to making the classroom more enjoyable, the arts expand minds through creativity while sharpening motor skills and visual learning abilities. For children with learning disabilities, there are several benefits of incorporating arts education at school and in the home. Furthermore, hobbies involving arts and crafts are another way for children to live a fulfilling life they love.

Different types of learners

There are several different ways to learn. Teachers can pass on knowledge by having children visualize concepts. Some children are visual learners who best comprehend things when they are diagrammed or listed. Others learn best when something is explained to them verbally. These auditory learners benefit from slow repetition, repeating concepts out loud and listening to lectures. Some students thrive through reading and writing. These children may be the type to highlight passages in a book or make copious notes on every subject. Finally, some only learn through a hands-on approach. These kinesthetic learners remember their actions better than what they’ve read or heard.

Different types of learning disabilities

There are several types of learning disabilities, and each come with challenges for parents and educators. These can include:

  • Dyslexia, which affects reading and other types of visual learning.
  • Dyscalculia, where students have difficulty with numerical concepts.
  • Auditory processing disorder, which affects how sounds are heard and processed.
  • Dysgraphia, which affects handwriting and fine-motor skills.
  • And more, including related disorders such as attention deficit disorder.

Children with certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, struggle with concepts that are primarily taught in ways other than through kinesthetic learning. Children learn the arts through appreciation and creation more than books and worksheets. It’s difficult to learn how to paint by listening to a lecture. Painting is learned with a brush and the risk of a mess. Because of the prevalence of kinesthetic learning in the arts, those who struggle with certain learning disabilities may be able to more easily approach difficult subjects through art education.

Arts help children understand the world around them

Because the arts are taught in a hands-on manner, children who have hurdles to other types of learning can thrive in fine arts, music and drama. But learning through the arts is not limited to artistic subjects. Music education also helps develop math skills through time, rhythm and pitch. General art education helps children develop in other areas such as:

  • Decision making. Problem solving is enabled through creative thinking.
  • Creativity helps in more than just drawing and playing piano. The ability to create helps students conceptualize concepts that may be abstract.
  • Cultural awareness. Children can learn concepts related to our increasingly diverse society. Art often questions and challenges people to question.

Arts provides a foundation for all learners to thrive

Since the arts are multi-sensory, more kids, including those with disabilities, are able to benefit from instruction. As a result, children with disabilities are presented an entirely new world of skills, concepts, and ideas. This democratization of education allows knowledge to reach those who may otherwise be marginalized by traditional learning methods.

Bringing arts education home

The hands-on learning benefits of the arts should not be limited to the classroom. Children with learning disabilities can thrive with homework and an area at home to be creative. A hobby room or corner can be set up in a home where a child is permitted to explore and create, messes and all. With a designated area such as this, there can be less concerns over making a mess with paint or being loud with music, resulting in unrestrained learning. Don’t be afraid to join in on the fun. If you know a skill, like sewing, teach it to your child. (Don’t worry if you’re a little rusty. There are tutorials on the internet!) Doing a hobby together is a great way to bond, and it has benefits for adults too.

Kids with learning disabilities can use the world of art as a passage to knowledge. Through school and home activities that encourage hands-on learning and play, education can focus less on reading and writing and more on doing.

***Author Jenny Wise created “Special Home Educator” as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families. She has four children. Her youngest daughter has autism.**

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