Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More Than Functional Skills

I believe that one of the most important things about our child's development and education is left out in most special education programs - fostering their creativity.  So much time is spent on functional and life skills and almost no time is spent on encouraging our children with disabilities to dream, create, and invent.

Sure, when they are small, classrooms often include markers, paper, glue and glitter, but in my experience with my children with disabilities, the little ones receive a lot of *help* so their creations look good, or at least look the way the staff thinks we want to see our children's artwork.  I saved almost none of the art projects that came home looking decidely different than I knew my children would have done.

Then by the time middle school and high school roll around, art class is viewed as an *extra*, something to fill an hour or so if there are not life skills classes to be found.  When my children were offered art class in these school years, they were pretty much situated at a table and handed markers and paper.  Even though they were more than capable of following an art lesson, they were usually labeled as incapable and the staff was able to pat themselves on the back for *including* the children.

But I refuse to accept that.  Reaching into the creative parts of our brains, I believe, helps the other parts to grow.  Once our children with disabilities are allowed to explore their creativity, they learn to explore other aspects of their lives, and ultimately build upon their self-advocacy skills.

Ashley, for example, has participated several times in her school's PTA Reflections contest.  Did her work look like or sound like that of non-disabled students of the same age?  Not usually, but what she did create was beautiful in its own way, the same of which could be said for her.  She learned to try, to feel, to test, to combine things in a way her mind deemed *right*.  She learned to relax through the therapy art can provide, and she learned to define what beautiful meant to her.

But those lessons came at home, not in the classroom.

What about you and your children?  What things have they experienced that drive their creativity?  What things have you done to encourage their exploration?  Do you feel it is important to nurture their creative side even if it means less time might be spent on learning to do laundry or cook or make the bed?  Do you believe that nurturing creativity from a very young age might serve as a foundation for a future life goal, perhaps even employment?

Is creativity an important quality in any person, even people with severe disabilities?  I believe it is, but I'm very interested in your opinion....

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