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Art Therapy in the Schools–Does it Work?

Art therapy in the schools involves professional art therapists along with preschoolers, children, adolescents, teachers, and families. The art therapist is specifically trained to recognize a struggling student’s emotional issues that are preventing them from learning. Other things, such as learning disabilities or language/speech disorders, can also be evaluated along with behavioral disorders and mental illness.

The reason art therapy in the schools works so well is because very few children of any age can resist the art-making processes–a blank piece of paper, the smell of new crayons, the feel of clay, and the visual impact of the moving watercolors. The art therapist can take this artwork and diagnose problems from it, providing certain appropriate interventions that may be needed along with specific services to assist the child in his or her developmental learning.

Some of the advantages of art therapy in the schools are the provisions of visual and verbal approaches to address certain child needs. An assessment by the art therapist involves giving the child or adolescent five or six art assignments, using different media. The ideas behind this is to have the child or adolescent perceive their family, themselves, their school, their friends, or anything in their environment and then apply this perception to their artwork.

Once finished, the artwork is evaluated through the art therapist, head of the art therapy in the schools program. Also evaluated is the individual’s academic history in connection with their development and family. Art therapists are trained to recognize cultural spectrums, using the artwork as an assessment evaluation in relation to the culture they are from.

Art therapy in the schools recognizes that all children’s drawings are divided up into certain stages. An advantage, it is pretty easy to distinguish when a child is behind their age level. Autism is the only separate condition when the child will be ahead of their age level, which would be easily recognized by their artwork. Children with learning disabilities have advanced creative and visual intelligence for art, yet demonstrate lower scores on the standardized tests.

It is during this level of artworks and their diagnosis that the artwork of the child or adolescent will begin to show a certain amount of deviation, depending on the amount and type of internal conflict that is present. This will be represented through the drawing style and the individual’s developmental level. One connecting example would be ADHD, where heavy coloring would represent the over-activity, yet appear small in some form of classroom setting.

The reason art therapy in the schools is important, is due to the safety levels held within the school systems for the child. Many do not have safe environments, or feel secure about themselves–school is their “other family” and the artwork is able to represent what that person is feeling inside.

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