According to Understood, around one in five children have learning and attention difficulties. However, it might be better to think of learning difficulties as learning differences -- children who struggle with standard subjects and teaching methods might thrive in other fields, such as the arts. If you think this might be true of your child, here are a few ways to get them started.
Many children labelled as “disruptive” in the classroom, are simply expressing their excess energy and desire for attention. Children like this often shine onstage! Those who are gifted in traditional classroom settings often falter in the performing arts, perhaps because they are too “in their heads.” Many children with learning differences find it easier to get in touch with their bodies and express themselves without holding back -- which is of course crucial to moving performances in dance or theater. Some performing arts classes, such as improv classes, allow children learn to express themselves in a safe environment, helping them to improve their social and emotional intelligence.
Many children with learning differences struggle with language and literacy -- these kids may find the visual arts a better fit to how their mind works. Interestingly, children who do take up the arts often find that their language skills improve -- psychologists aren’t sure why but they think it helps them to process and make sense of the language they have already learned. Artforms like drawing and painting are ideal because they are easy and cheap to get started in -- all you need is a painting kit and a space they can play without worrying about the mess.
If your child is more tactile, textile arts would be a good choice. With textile arts, the texture and shape of the piece is just as important as it’s visual appearance, which gives your child an extra dimension in which to express themselves. They’ll be able to create tapestries, clothes, or make modifications to existing clothes, and the end result is a tangible, physical creation. At the same time, they will develop their motor skills, or learn to use machinery if they are old enough to try sewing machines. Check out these sewing resources from HomeAdvisor.
Is your child musically minded? If so then music classes might be a good fit for them. In a similar way as the visual arts, music gives a voice to children who struggle to express their feelings in words, and studies show music is particularly effective for children with attentional difficulties. However, music is not as easily accessible as the visual arts, it also takes some time and dedication to build the level of skill need to play freely. However, some children pick this up quickly, while others enjoy the challenge -- you could start by taking your child to a group music session where they can play a small part in a group production, and expand their role as their skill improves.
It’s no secret that children with learning differences face difficulties that other children don’t. On top of that, they may find it difficult to express themselves, and talk about what they are experiencing. This is where art therapy comes in -- and it’s very different to a standard art class. In art therapy, children are encouraged to express themselves through art -- to paint a picture about how they feel, for instance. This helps them get in touch with their emotions, and express them in ways that they may struggle to do with language. However, they are not developing artistic skills, nor are they judged on the quality of the art they produce. The goal is pure expression. However, if they enjoy it, there’s no reason you can’t take them to traditional art classes also, or give them materials to use at home.
A problem that children with learning disabilities will face throughout their lives, is being defined by their challenges. The arts provide a buffer against this, by teaching them about their gifts. Which art form do you think is more suitable for your child?