Art as a teaching tool for Children with Autism
Autism is a complex developmental disorder that manifests in children by the age of three. The incidence of Autism is on the rise. But the exact cause of it is not known. Experts believe that it occurs due to neurological impairment that has an effect on normal brain function and cause significant social, communication, and behavioural challenges. Autistic children process information in their brain differently than other people. Hence teaching to these children needs different strategies.
Autistic children are usually visual learners. They understand pictures better than verbal instructions. So, it is advisable to educators to avoid giving long strings of verbal instructions while teaching a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) child. The use of art as a teaching tool can be a great and effective way in developing the learning process of an ASD child.
Many children with autism are good at drawing. These talent areas should be encouraged by parents, educators and therapist. Art gives them a degree of control over their learning. An ASD child when shown a picture and taught prepositions (in, on, under, in front of etc.), may become bored. However, if the same child is asked to draw “A rat sits on a mat” or “The ball is under a table”, he finds it more interesting and achieves much more control over his learning experience.
Although many autistic children are good in numbers, they usually find difficulties in solving story sums or word problems. They face issues in understanding the language of the problem. So for better results, break down the whole sums into parts and help the child “translate” the language into pictures. Drawing a picture of the problem facilitate them to understand “What the problem is actually asking?” This can be a one of the effective ways of teaching story sums to an ASD child.
Many autistic children have problems with their fine motor skills. Art activities like colouring with crayon over pictures can bring an improvement. Educator can ask a child to “colour big ball or colour small balloon” while teaching the basic functional concepts. In this way, not only he can help a child to learn concepts but also hone his motor skills.
Children with ASD struggle with focus and attention, and that affects their learning process. So, incorporating close-ended activities like art and drawing assignment which requires more focus and concentration in teaching methods would be a better idea for their effective learning.
An autistic child, who is non-verbal and cannot communicate gets angry and frustrated when unable to open up his feelings and choice. Art can be used as a medium to express his emotions, interest or choice. Communicating a simple choice of “No” and “Yes” can be encouraged by drawing “X” or “\/” .More the child is able to express his thoughts, better the teacher understands him. It is of enormous benefit when it comes to teaching an ASD child.
Teaching through creative methods has no second to providing an highly interesting and unparalleled level of communication and engagement with autistic children. Educators, therapist and parents should also encourage the talents of ASD children which often goes unnoticed and not utilized properly. ASD children are not unskilled but there is a need to guide and help a child in recognizing and highlighting his talent so that it can be converted into skills. Art as a teaching tool undoubtedly helps struggling learners and allow them to experience happy learning.
Note: The above post written by me earlier in “The progressive teacher ” magazine @ Jan,2017