How Children with Learning Differences Can Benefit from Artistic Expression

Children with language-based learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, who may find it difficult to  communicate effectively through reading, writing, or spelling are often able to creatively express themselves through art. Creative activities such as drawing, painting, and sculpting provide room for unique expression, without the need or pressure for generating written and verbal communication. 

Using the Imagination

Creating art can be very stimulating for the brain, as it sparks curiosity and relies heavily on using the imagination. Choosing between different painting tools, colors, and styles can be exciting for a child. There is no right or wrong answer in the art classroom, which helps students who struggle in traditional academic subjects.

students painting

Initiating a Therapeutic Response

Art could also be considered a relaxing and therapeutic activity not only for the brain, but for the body as well. Whether it involves using paint strokes or sculpting clay into unique shapes, there is no major physical effort involved in the process. “Making art generates a relaxation response and improves a child’s mood. Creative activity increases brain levels of serotonin, the lack of which can lead to depression” (Nelson 2013). Helping to ease stress levels in a child with learning differences is important because they are already being challenged in other classes, which can cause them to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or less confident than their peers. 

Applying Motor Skills, Logic, and Abstraction

There is no doubt that children with learning differences have high creative skills. Artistic expression allows for discovering new, creative ways for brainstorming ideas, problem solving, and overcoming obstacles. “Sweeping a brush across a canvas requires motor skills. Drawing a picture of a memory requires analytic and sequential operations, logic, and abstraction” (Nelson 2013). Children learn these skills through practicing art. It can help them apply these skills in their other classes, which can give them additional confidence in their ability to learn.

timeline project

Tips for Helping Students with Artistic Expression

Enjoy the process: Place importance on taking time to enjoy making art rather than focusing solely on the final product. Encourage students to concentrate on how they’re feeling when they paint, draw, or sculpt. Let them know that there is no need to rush or compete with their fellow classmates.

Engage: Encourage students to talk about their artwork and share with classmates what they created and why. It’s helpful to ask questions that will make them more comfortable presenting such as “What’s happening in this picture?” or “What would you name this piece of art?”

Ask how they feel about their work: If a student feels disappointed about their artwork, rather than replying with automatically saying that it’s beautiful, ask them what they would have done differently. This allows them to start thinking about how to problem-solve.

Keep it interesting: It’s important not to overwhelm a student with an abundance of art tools and materials to use. Pick out a few of each, as more can be added later. Provide students with fun options for their art projects and have them decide which to work on.

Artistic expression should be a part of students’ lives, whether at school, at home, or both. The benefits that they receive from thinking creatively, using logic and problem-solving skills, and relaxing their minds to decrease stress are crucial for their overall well being both in and out of the classroom.

Resources You May be Interested In:

“How Art Therapy Tames Impulsivity, Distractibility, and Anxiety.” Stacey Nelson, 2013.


Topics: Artistic Expression, Learning Differences