All in a Day’s Work

What a busy weekend. We had an art show at our church yesterday afternoon and I spent quite a bit of time getting ready for it. Now I wish I hadn’t spent quite so much time, as very few people came. Again, my overly optimistic streak kicked in the day before. I made prints of a couple of my pieces in hope that people would buy those (at least enough to cover the costs). My friend Tekia bought one. That was about it. I am still glad I made the prints though because I may need them later.  I’ll take a picture in the near future and if any of you readers are interested in purchasing one, I can mail one to you. 

As you probably know, I’m an Art Therapist at a school/residential facility for kids who have both a developmental disability as well as a mental health diagnosis. A couple of weeks ago we had parent/teacher conferences and stayed late at school. This is generally a chance for me to catch up on cleaning the room and such. Since I had the room clean, I emptied it of all the visible artwork (I can’t ethically photograph the kids’ art) and took a few shots of the room with my phone.  Since e77c8c06-1.jpgyou probably will never have the  chance to visit the school, here’s my world, at least from 8 – 4 Mondays through Thursdays. (Fridays I do MMARS in the gym.) 

 Here’s the view as you walk in. My office is to the left, but I didn’t take photos of it. I love the huge window overlooking the sensory garden. We sometimes see the fox or bunnies or even the orange striped tabby cat out there. I also LOVE the blinds because this room’s temperature varies throughout the day and it helps keep it cooler in the afternoon.   I painted the tree on the window and had the kids paint some leaves on. That’s Barkley, our affirmation tree.  You can see the education building on the other side of the garden. My room is a bit removed from the rest of the school. It’s more in the administration wing, right past the lobby.The tables on the left are where I do most of the therapy groups with the higher functioning kids.

  Here’s a shot of the cabinets. e77c8bc3-1.jpgI made the curtains because some things are better left a mystery.  Judging by the number of times the kids try to look behind the curtains, they don’t agree with that statement. But if they knew what all I had, they’d be hounding me for it all the time. To the right of the cabinets is the door and behind the dry erase board is my office.

The round table is the overflow table for larger, higher functioning groups. I also use this for my 3 groups that consist of lower functioning kids.  Though I didn’t feel totally prepared to work with them when I came 4 years ago, I do enjoy it. e77c8bc5-1.jpgI definitely do not do traditional art therapy with them. Their disabilities are such that they can’t make a mask and talk about what feelings they hide inside, for example. I try to do multi-sensory art with them. So for example, they might paint with odd things that have different textures and sounds. We’ve painted with everything from Christmas tree tinsel to sponges, to bubble wrap, to marbles.  Last week we did a yarn project. I thought they turned out cute. They remind me of the fry guys from McDonald’s…..

So with this project, we worked on making choices. e77c8c72-2.jpgMost of these kids can’t verbalize, so they either sign using basic ASL signs, use eyegaze to show their preference, or reach out with their hand and touch their choice. Obviously this is not a project they could do start to finish on their own. For one class in particular, the staff does a lot of the work, but tries to get the kids to help with as many tasks as possible, whether it be making the color choices, helping squeeze the glue, holding the yarn, etc.  For another class, some of the kids are quite capable of doing this with simple one to two step directions. In their case, we work on focus, following directions, impulse control, and taking turns.  So anyway, that’s probably not exactly what you thought art therapy was, but it is one aspect of my job.

 For the higher functioning, verbal kids, you could say we do “touchy feely” art in a whole different way.  The art projects are directed at helping them express feelings they may not have otherwise verbalized, and providing an outlet for feelings they’re not ready to express verbally.  We also do lots of work on anger management, impulse control, and group cooperation and trust. Today for example, I had a few art games designed to focus on trust, listening to each other, and empathy. And all the while they just thought they were playing games.  I love being sneaky like that. It’s like tricking them into doing therapy. 

~ by tawnyamarie on October 29, 2007.

3 Responses to “All in a Day’s Work”

  1. Thanks for posting these pictures! I’d always pictured something more akin to a gym, since you tell stories about Fridays so much. I love that window! And the yarn project…cute? 🙂 The tiny broom made me laugh. If you’re still going to Wicked in NY soon, I’d love an extra program if you can snag one!

  2. Aah, the manipulation of young minds into doing something they don’t want to do – don’t you love it? Nice blog entry.

  3. Hey! It was soooo good to see your art room and hear a little more about your current position. Your post brought back a lot of fond memories of Prairie View. Thanks for sharing!

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