The Arts: A Gateway To Success For Disabled Children

Academic achievement can often be out of reach for kids with learning disabilities. To help your child succeed in school, therapies and other interventions are often necessary, but there may be an enjoyable option that can help him in school as well as in other areas: diving into the arts.


How The Arts Can Help Children With Learning Disabilities

The arts can benefit kids with learning disabilities in many ways. According to research from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, “Children showed more motivation, paid closer attention and remembered what they learned more easily when the arts were integrated into the curriculum.” Many parents already know this is true. Who hasn’t helped their child remember the alphabet, multiplication tables, or how to count by 2’s with a song?

Cecilia Cruse, MS, OTR/L writes that the arts can help kids build important skills, including fine motor skills, problem-solving and communication. It also helps build their self-esteem and motivates them to succeed. One reason that learning through art can help is that many kids with learning disabilities have different learning modalities, such as visual, auditory or kinesthetic. While these are not commonly used to teach academic subjects, they are necessary in the arts. See how one teacher uses these modalities in this post from ADDitude.

If your child has learning challenges, encouraging them to participate in the arts does not mean extra pressure on them. The arts are subjective, and therefore children don’t have to create the same thing as everyone else. While there is only one right answer in academic subjects, art provides an outlet for the child’s own creative expression, which helps them to make sense of the world. 

The Best Arts For Kids With Disabilities

If you want your child to learn the arts, which art form is best for him if he has no preference? Each option has different advantages:

  • Textile arts
    Sewing or creating fabric art can be therapeutic, especially for children who have tactile sensitivities and may not like working with messy materials like paint. A quick search online will provide plenty of great ideas for your little one to try, such as this list from HomeAdvisor, which includes beginner basics for sewing, and projects like sewing purses and pillows.
  • Learning a musical instrument
    According to the Peterson Family Foundation, this skill is like a “total workout” for the brain. When helping your child choose an instrument, reference this instrument list courtesy of LA Parent to find an instrument based on your child’s particular disability.
  • Dance
    Dance is not just about physical movement, although it can help boost a child’s self-confidence. There are many more benefits of dance, including building skills such as creativity, problem-solving, risk-taking and higher-order thinking.
  • Theater
    While theater may not be your first choice for a child with a disability, theater arts can help him shine. Because there are many roles needed to make a production, your child can get firsthand experience working in a team – and he can work behind the scenes if he prefers. also posts that the theater can bring a story to life, which can help a struggling reader. In addition, improv has been shown to help students with disabilities develop social skills, build confidence, and tap into a less traditional way of expression, all of which can benefit them in and out of the classroom.
  • Fine and graphic arts.
    Christine O’Kelly, an author for a children’s art school, says that art classes can assist a child with expression, social integration and self-esteem as well as promoting cognitive skills. She writes, “These classes give them the opportunity to work on their weaknesses without the pressure to keep up with the other children. They are also given the opportunity to take pride in their strengths and display them to the world.” Plus, there are ways to combine the arts with a little bit of science, such as with this homemade puffy paint.

What To Do Next

Now that you have some ideas of what your child can explore and how he can benefit from the arts, look for local resources and summer camps that host art classes and events that can accommodate your child’s needs. You can also seek out online training and apps that teach these skills, or meet with your child’s teachers and staff to have him included in the arts activities their school offers. No matter what activity your child enjoys or where he practices it, the arts can be a great gift for children with learning disabilities, helping them to improve academically while boosting their physical and mental health. 

Text: Jenny Wise, HomeAdvisor