Technology Brings the Expressive Arts to All

by Judy Potter

Children need opportunities in the arts for healthy development and learning. The arts (visual art, music, movement, and dramatic play) offer important vehicles for expression, problem solving, and emergent literacy. Being creative and expressing oneself are extremely important to any young child. Art activities contribute to written, spoken, and gestural communication and enhance social development. Children communicate ideas and feelings through drawing, movement, and song. Unfortunately, young children with disabilities many times are not given opportunities to participate in art activities.

Fortunately, all children can have successful experiences in expressive arts, using technology with developmentally appropriate, activity-based, and integrated activities. Using technology to help a child with disabilities participate in art activities offers benefits, as indicated by the results of the The Expressive Arts Project, a model demonstration project geared towards young children with disabilities While participating in ArtExpress, the curriculum created by the Expressive Arts Project, children at field test sites increased their skill levels in communication, social, motor, and cognitive areas related to their IEP goals. Activities used were similar to those found in most regular and inclusion classrooms.

The research of Kellogg (1970), Schirrmacher (1993) and others indicates that all children progress through a developmental sequence with their art. Data from the Expressive Arts Project demonstrates that children with disabilities follow the same developmental progression as children without disabilities.

Technology, low-tech and high-tech, including peripherals and software make expressive arts accessible to children with disabilities. Teachers can make adaptations to assure that all children will have successful experiences in the expressive arts. Children with disabilities can access the world of art through the use of adaptive peripherals. They can draw, paint, and create a slide show with a TouchWindow, kidDraw, or Ke:nx with an alternative keyboard and overlays with Kid Pix. They can use a Music Mat or a keyboard to create music. Tearchers can recreate a favorite story or event in dramatic play using the software Circletime Tales, Thinkin' Things, a programmable switch like the TalkPad or BIGmack, and props to actively involve children with disabilities. Appropriate expressive art software for young children includes Kid Pix Studio, ArtSpace, With Open Eyes, look what i see, Lamb Chop Loves Music, Morton Subotnick's Making Music, Circletime Tales Deluxe , and The Living Books series.

The Expressive Arts Project is now in its Outreach phase and is offering training and workshops for sites wanting to participate in the project. For more information contact Judy Potter at 309/298-1634.

This article is based on a conference session presented, April 1999, at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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