We are thrilled to present a special guest post today from Carla Flynn, one of our favorite customers – who also happens to be a pediatric occupational therapist. Her unique insight into the way children learn (and specifically learn through art) is much appreciated. Much of occupational therapy’s philosophies are incorporated into our programs for young children here at The Messy Artist. We consciously choose activities to promote large and small motor control, as well as those that encourage social skills, such as sharing. That’s why you’ll often see one palette for every two children in our classes: we are introducing the ideas of sharing and taking turns.
Not only did Carla take time out of her busy schedule to write this blog post, she is the mother of a newborn baby girl. We are impressed with her dedication and energy, and can’t wait til her daughter is old enough to join us for art classes!
Hello, My name is Carla Flynn and I am excited to be a guest blogger for the Messy Artist. I am a wife and mother of three amazing children, two boys and a girl, ages 5, 3, and 2 months. I am also a pediatric occupational therapist who has been practicing in the field for 13 years with experience in private practice, early intervention and school-based settings. And if my schedule wasn’t busy enough, one year ago I decided to pursue my doctorate in occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatrics.
When I was presented the opportunity through the Messy Artist to blog about the profession I love, I thought… “Hey, why not!”
Occupational therapy is deeply rooted in art. The OT profession was born out of the arts and crafts movement of the early 1900’s. Occupational therapists are trained to use arts and crafts as meaningful and purposeful activities as an intervention for rehabilitation across the lifespan. I especially find art to be useful in my treatment sessions for the many amazing benefits that it provides to the children I serve.
I’d like to give you some insight into the mind of an occupational therapist. Our training and education allows us to see every activity in a new and different way. We are constantly analyzing situations, activities and tools to fit our client’s needs. For example, during an art project, I may use an easel or another vertical surface to strengthen a child’s upper extremity muscles and to promote wrist extension, which is necessary for handwriting. Within my therapy sessions, I love making collages with students or using decoupage. I ask my students to tear paper into small pieces or tear around pictures using their fingers. This effort is great for working on fine motor skills and isolating the muscles in the hands to address endurance as well as mental focus and concentration. Most children also enjoy drawing or coloring. I never pass on an opportunity to take out a variety of markers, crayons, chalk bits, colored pencils, pens, pastels and dot markers. Each of these tools provides a different kind of resistance while using them, therefore they can build fine motor strength and endurance and require children to grade pressure while creating their masterpieces. Many of the students that I see have difficulty holding a pencil using a functional writing grasp. Teachers are constantly pointing out this difficulty in students. Within my sessions, instead of sitting down to work on pencil grasp through writing, I will encourage the use of a paintbrush to create a piece of art because in doing so the student is mimicking the grasp pattern used when holding a pencil to write.
These applications for the use of art during my therapy sessions just scratch the surface in terms of the benefits that art provides for my students. Using art as a medium during therapy also has practical applications to assist with social skills, visual motor, visual perceptual and sensory skills. Most children enjoy creating and crafting so another great benefit is it is fun and provides an outlet for leisure skills.
From the perspective of this therapist, I can use art to get children to work on just about any skill I wish to address and without much resistance. Children just think they are having fun and I’m able to achieve great therapeutic results (but that will be my little secret!) In the end, I even get the title of “the coolest teacher”…enough said!!! 😉
Carla is employed by the Livingston BOE and is also Handwriting Without Tears Level 1 certified. She can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Carla!
Comments? Questions? Want to guest blog for us? We’d love to hear from you!