The Arts as Ally, Advocate and Lifeline for Children with Learning Disabilities

The Arts as Ally, Advocate and Lifeline for Children with Learning Disabilities by Jenna Sherman, guest author

Photo via Pixabay

One in five children in the US have learning and attention issues, such as dyslexia and ADHD. According to Mimi Corcoran, President and CEO of National Center for Learning Disabilities, these children can achieve at high levels with the right support. Fortunately, opportunities for “the  right support” can be just a paintbrush, dance shoe, or drum set away.

While the arts might not be a cure-all for all learning disabilities, they have provided countless children with a new path for learning, expression, and greater self-esteem. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Education have shared that children showed more motivation, paid closer attention, and remembered what they learned more easily when the arts were integrated into their curriculum.

If you’re having difficulty finding a class that caters to your child’s abilities, consider teaching them yourself. You may discover that you have a knack for teaching, which could help other parents in your situation. Just remember that if you decide to give lessons professionally, you’ll need to take steps to properly register your business with the state, so it’s important you know how to start a business in Arizona. Our state has LLC guidelines in place that you’ll need to follow, so make sure you understand everything thoroughly before you decide to register as such. In addition, it’s important to write up a business plan. You can work with a professional or follow an online template to create yours.

Below are eight tips from Arizona Golden Rule Educational Experiences (AGREE) for helping your child with learning disabilities get involved with the arts:

  1. Expose your child to as many arts as possible. Give him the chance to sculpt something out of clay, rent a musical instrument, experiment with art supplies, or attend a puppet show. Which activities make him smile? Which ones simply frustrate him? Listen to your child and watch for clues regarding what makes his heart sing.
  2. Once you’ve identified a few avenues you’d like to explore, look for classes and programs after school, on weekends, and during vacations. Many community parks and recreation centers offer classes. Talk with other parents and research online.
  3. Acknowledge and encourage your child’s attempts. After being immersed in a school culture that values standardized testing, it’s easy for children with learning differences to feel less intelligent and less capable than their peers. The best gift you can give your child is allowing him to understand that being artistic is another way of being “smart.”
  4. Communicate with your child’s teacher. If he or she doesn’t understand how the arts can open up a new world of self-expression and self-worth for children, either educate her or look for a new teacher. You need to find a teacher that understands how artistic projects can help make your child’s thinking more visible to others, and how it can assist her memory and lead to more success in school.
  5. Help your child find a musical instrument with his “name” on it. Research abounds on the benefits of playing a musical instrument — from cognitive and sensory to social and emotional. It’s a priceless outlet for self-expression and socialization too. When it comes to choosing the best instrument for your child, you’ll want to consider the following:
  • What is your child’s body type? If your child is quite small, the bassoon may not be your best bet.
  • What is your child’s personality type? Playing percussion can be perfect for children who tend to be a little restless, and saxophones are very popular for children who are considered to be extroverts.
  • What are your child’s abilities? For example, if your child has speech difficulties, woodwinds could be challenging because of the tongue coordination required to play them.
  • What kind of music does your child like? If your child doesn’t like the sound a flute makes, why would he want to play one? 
  • Creative dance is particularly beneficial for children with learning disabilities, because it gives them a special way to express themselves and aids with body awareness. Play music every day at home and encourage your child to dance with you. Communicate that there are no “right” or “wrong” ways to express themselves in these dance sessions. For added fun, give your child some scarves or silk ribbons they can move with the music.

Many children who have great difficulty in academia excel in the arts. Your child who once struggled in school may find herself gainfully employed in the art industry. Your son who thought he could never accomplish anything in life may thrive as a dance instructor. Whether your child one day sings in Carnegie Hall or at your next family get-together, she will be experiencing the joy and self-realization of following her bliss. As a parent, is there any greater aspiration for your child than this? For more ideas on how to give your child an educational experience that inspires Gold Standard behavior, visit the Arizona Golden Rule Educational Experiences (AGREE) website, or contact us online for curriculum details or presentation requests