Parents of children with special needs are often on the hunt for new ways to explore creativity, enhance expression and overcome challenges. The benefits of art as a vehicle for these goals are well known.
Although many do know about the benefits of art, not everybody does – or they may not be familiar with the particulars.
The benefits of art have been documented over decades, if not hundreds of years. Art therapy is now an accepted and sough-after option for parents of children who have been diagnosed with a special needs condition.
There are four major categories for special needs children. They are:
Physical – such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy
Developmental – such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), processing disorders, dyslexia and Down Syndrome
Behavioural – such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)
Sensory – such as children who are visual or hearing impaired
The benefits of art for children with special needs carry across all four categories. At Paint a Pot, we have created a small haven for children to express themselves in a relaxed environment.
For many children on the Autism Spectrum, as well as those who experience other difficulties, verbal expression can be one of their greater challenges. In a world where we are expected to share our thoughts and feelings in words, children with verbal limitations need an alternative form of expression.
Painting and other art activities provide the perfect avenue. They give children, both with special needs and those who are developing typically, a wonderful outlet for their ideas and emotions.
One of the biggest trials facing many children on the Autism Spectrum is in relation to sensory issues. Often referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder, the brain can have trouble sending and receiving the correct information that is delivered via the senses. This can result in children who are oversensitive to stimuli, or don’t respond enough to them.
The messy play that comes with painting and other mediums highlights the benefits of art. In a structured, gentle and safe environment, children with sensory issues are able to experience things that would otherwise overwhelm them. Here, they can be introduced at a less aggressive pace, and are not as likely to be surprised by the “cold squishiness” of the paint, or the cool hard surface of a ceramic piece. They can watch other children immerse themselves in the process, enjoying the textures and the process of getting a bit messy!
Auditory sensory issues are prevalent in special needs children. Most commonly, sounds can seem louder than they really are – sharp and loud sounds can be frightening, and background noise can be overwhelming. This overwhelm can lead to meltdowns and behavioural problems.
Paint a Pot is a small, boutique paint and play centre, providing a fun space that is quieter than most standard play centres. We like our environment to be as peaceful as possible without compromising on enjoyment, and feel we have managed to strike a great balance!
With many therapies for special needs children, the parents are witnesses or may not even be present at all.
Art is different – art crosses the bridge between parent and child. At Paint a Pot, we have seen parents join in the fun with their children, and it creates a lovely interaction that can be hard to achieve when the busy-ness of life is demanding attention, or a child is participating in an activity with a therapist.
It can also encourage a connection between siblings or peers, which may otherwise be hard when a child is faced with social anxiety or communication barriers.
The left and right hemispheres of the brain look after completely different realms! The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, but is also responsible for tasks that relate to logic, such as science and mathematics. Alternatively, the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, as well as anything to do with creativity and the arts.
For many children on the Autism Spectrum, the left hemisphere is dominant, meaning they can be brilliant mathematicians and prone to structured thinking, but challenged by creative expression. Years of research into brain function shows how important it is that the hemispheres of the brain are connected and balanced. Many schools in Australia now include Brain Gym (and other hemisphere integration exercises) in their daily routines.
When the left hemisphere is dominant, undertaking regular creative activity is vital. It helps to sync up those hemispheres in a fun and safe way!
Soft Play for Pain Sensitivity
Along with sensory challenges, pain processing issues are also common in children with special needs. While some children experience pain more profusely than the norm, others may be injured and not feel the pain as they should. Whatever end of the pain processing spectrum they are on, the issues can be frustrating for parents and dangerous for children.
Most play centres have a combination of hard and soft equipment, which can be difficult for children with sensory and pain processing concerns. The indoor playground at Paint a Pot is a soft play centre, meaning it is ideal for these children.
It also means that parents can truly relax and enjoy a coffee at our café while their children play!
Whether you are looking to experience the many and varied benefits of art with your special needs child, or are simply looking for something fun to do with your kids, Paint a Pot delivers!