We welcome guest author Brenda Kimble with her blog on Incredible Art Therapy Nonprofit Programs Changing Lives for Special Needs Kids.
It’s not just painting, and drawing, and beading—it’s about communication and an interactive involvement that is more than just a distraction from their situation or about putting in time. These incredible art therapy programs take place in locations like hospitals, schools, and community centers.
The limits of the programs are not necessarily set by the special needs kids as much as they are confined by the almost boundless creativity of professional educators and health professionals. This is matched by the passion of individual citizens who see a need and desire to stand in the gap, or who are committed to giving back because they or someone they love has benefited from such an initiative.
What are we talking about?
Focusing on the reality of special needs kids and their loved ones, these nonprofit programs provide both space and resources as well as qualified, professional assistance. These committed people dedicate themselves to shape the programs, share their expertise, and caring concern.
What does an art initiative for special needs kids provide?
If the program takes place in a hospital ward with seriously ill children, for example, patients and their visiting family and friends have a creative and intentional option for not only spending time with their sick loved ones, but doing something that may help keep the focus off the illness.
There guided activities create at least two tangible results: valuable communication in a difficult environment and a treasured gift to share.
Kids can express themselves through a range of art forms that they might otherwise have difficulty expressing, or they simply can’t communicate with words. Let’s look at some concrete, winning examples:
1. Tracy’s Kids
Founded in 1991, Tracy’s Kids has a proven track record of providing professionally facilitated art therapy for children and their families as they face the trauma of cancer and prepare for the time when they will be cancer free. The programs are directed by personnel with master’s degrees, and the art therapists are board certified. These dedicated professionals are part of the child’s treatment team and work alongside the medical professionals caring for the child and family.
Their stated goal is to “provide a child-centered, open studio approach for inpatients and outpatients and to interact with the children while they are receiving infusions and other treatments. We welcome the chance to work with siblings and parents because we know that the entire family is affected when a child has cancer.” Nowadays, recovery after treatment happens in the majority of cases, and a major component of Tracy’s Kids is to assist children and their families for the time after treatment.
2. Bonita Bead Boutique
The Bonita Bead Boutique takes a very specific approach to offering patients and their parents and other family members ways to connect with each other. They provide materials and resources for beading in hospitals, nursing homes, church groups, and migrant camps, for example. Their hospital-based initiatives include ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital and ProMedica Flower Hospital.
Beading is unique in that it is straight-forward and extremely creative at the same time. People can connect with each other as they bead around a table; there is laughter, support and a shared experience. There is time for stories and fun as external distractions are filtered out; you focus on the task in front of you and interpret the message in the finished work of art you have created.
That valuable work of art will create memories of the struggle and the victories you experience and remember together. You’ll remember the shared times as well as the laughter and the tears. That is priceless.
3. Arts for All
When it comes to combining a wider range of art forms, Arts for All, out of Tucson, Arizona, shows the way. They add music and dance and ceramics and drama to their program that reaches out to children and adults with disabilities.
Through their involvement, children and adults in after-school programs or in community-based events have the opportunity and guidance to increase their own sense of well-being and accomplishment through learning and performing one of those valuable art forms—often with an audience in public.
The Arts for All passion for developing people goes way beyond normal business hours. They provide summer and winter camps, after-school and school vacation care, and they combine their work with the opportunity for teenagers to learn and experience the dynamic of caring for and facilitating those with and without disabilities.
It is clear that people with special needs can be engaged with creativity and significant activities that enrich their lives, create memories, and assist them and their families in adding meaning to their lives. These private, non-profit initiatives also remind us that taking time and having a plan, and then carrying out that plan over the years, makes a real difference for real people.
You can start your own initiative with people in your life and begin to create opportunities for growing together, developing new skills, and making memories. Sitting around a table, telling stories, laughing together, and creating a work of art that will last, shows the way for those who are close to us.
You can create birthday bracelets or prayer beads to wear with pride and remind you of the moments of creation. Imagine the spoken or unspoken joy the special needs child in your life will have when they see you wearing their creation. In years to come, you will all have visible reminders of those milestones at a moment’s glance or as you wear it around your neck or touch the stones in your pocket or purse.
The opportunities are there and are not reserved for the professionals. Their passion and effort are praiseworthy and can inspire us to be involved and to take note of the people and needs around us each day.
Brenda Kimble is a writer and stay-at-home mother of two daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! She loves blogging, crafting, and spending time with her family. She is also a strong advocate for those with special needs and writes to give a voice to the often unheard.