I have a confession to make. I still get a kick out of getting down and dirty with anything resembling goopyness. Whether it's Playdo, cookie dough, or good old-fashioned mud from the garden, I'm in heaven. Not that my creative urges are expressed through the medium of art - my inner editor continues to slink in the room whenever it sniffs out a primal urge to throw paint on canvas - but there's something...well, fun about letting go of my daily to-do list and allowing the kid in me to play.
My daughter and I took a beginner's art class together last year. We chose to do this because as grownups, neither one of us had dared to bare our souls on paper via the paintbrush. But there's something exhilarating about throwing on an old shirt and letting the paint fly. (Literally. I went through three of my best pants before finally realizing paint is like a heat-seeking missile homing in on 'dry-clean only' fabric.)
It turned out to be not only a wonderful mother-daughter bonding experience, but a golden opportunity to recapture a little of our childhoods. In short, we had fun. After we were able to escort our Inner Saboteurs out the door, we relaxed and let go of the outcome. It didn't matter that we didn't create works of art fit to hang in the National Gallery of Canada. We felt an immediate sense of fulfillment, and a desire to try more new things.
In the same way, art therapy is a healing, creative process for the intellectually disabled. According to the Ontario Art Therapy Association, "art is the tool for communication, self-examination and healing. As well, the creative act, in itself, can be healing." To immerse oneself in the creative process is to open a portal to another world, where it is easier to express one's feelings. It's a safe place, and just as music therapy is used to increase self-esteem, communication skills, and social interaction, art therapy is another tool used by a skilled therapist to encourage the intellectually disabled to explore their inner world.
"Some remarkable art has come from people with autism of all levels. They can communicate fluently what is hard for them to put into words." (See Daniel Muller and Adrian Tarpey, for example.)
Ideal-Way.ca announced their 1st Annual Art Contest last week, for any persons with an intellectual disability living in Ontario. As I read that "judging by the Awards Panel will be chaired by Andrew Hamilton, Canadian landscape painter," I imagined what it would feel like to give the Inner Editor the heave-ho and submit one's work to the scrutiny of others. Exciting, exhilarating, powerful, I thought.
By encouraging the intellectually disabled to explore their creativity through art, and therefore giving them a place to heal and grow, we are giving them an opportunity to dare to dream.
For more information on art therapy, go to: The Canadian Art Therapy Association
Art Therapy in Canada
Re-Visioning Therapeutic Services
Art Therapy & Autism
Autism Teaching Tools
Kerry's Place Autism Services
Art Now for Autism