Monday, April 23, 2012

Building confidence in our kids through creativity

Ever heard of The Miracle Project? It's a nonprofit that enables kids and teens with autism and other special needs to express themselves through music, dance, acting, story-telling and writing. You've gotta love their motto: "ALL children of ALL abilities grow in school and in spirit while creating and performing in original musicals."

The organization is in need of more money for more programs. Happily, its expanding its theater and film arts program to San Diego and San Jose, thanks to a grant from CVS Caremark through their All Kids Can program. The free training will center around the principles of The Miracle Project's "7 Keys To Unlock Autism." (It's open to the public and happening between 4 and 7 Thursday afternoon at Pioneer Day School in San Diego so if you're in the area, stop by.)

Max on stage? Not so much. He's developed an interest in bands, as you may know from his recent barfly/groupie experience. But he's not quite ready to perform, even if Cars 2: The Musical was happening in his school (or even Chocolate Ice-Cream: The Musical, for that matter). Still, one thing he's very much into now is putting together his own books. We made a Cars 2 one the other day. He recently came home from school with one he'd made after his awesome teacher, Pat, read I'm Gonna Like Me! by Jamie Lee Curtis to the class. Each kid did a Top 10 Reasons Why I Like Me! booklet. Can you guess whose this is?

Max and I read it together, and he seemed very proud of himself.

That's one key to sparking our kids' creativity (and basically any kids' creativity): Encourage what they love to do. My parents were really good about that when I was a kid. I was pretty self-motivated and so I was the one suggesting piano lessons, ballet lessons, sewing lessons, learning how to do calligraphy. They always said yes. On Friday nights, they watched the mini plays my sister and I put on, and they regularly bought us craft kits. Once, Dad inexplicably brought home an accordion in the hopes I would play it. But, no.

That did not stop me from recently buying this mini accordion for Max, at the suggestion of one of his occupational therapists. He's played it a few times but he's kind of meh about it, a chip off the old block. On occasion, he likes to plunk out his own tunes on the piano.

Max is really into drawing; he's constantly going at it on the easel in the playroom. Always, in purple crayon. Mostly, scribbles. But they are awesome scribbles. He also likes to use Crayola's Color Studio HD app, which is great because the stylus is nice and chunky and easy to grasp. One of his favorite places for drawing? On the steamed-up bathroom window, after his bath. Sometimes I randomly leave the shower on hot for a few minutes so Max can draw. Come to think of it, I can't think of any artist who's used steam as a medium (watch out, Damien Hirst!).

As parents of kids with special needs, we have a lot to help them with—talking, walking, eating, social skills and other major stuff. But I think it's just as important to help them develop their creativity. Maybe they're not yet able to take pride in their steps or words, but most any child can be proud of something they create. And building up that confidence muscle will be a Very Good Thing to help them get along in this world.

What sort of ways have you found to encourage your child's creativity?

This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a commitment to helping children of all abilities be the best they can be. Like them on Facebook!


  1. You're right of course. It is easy to get bogged down in the basics: learning to walk, talk, etc. Creativity is important too.
    Ashley loves a scribble - sometimes he even uses paper. He adores music and tries to dance - oh he does dance Ashleystyle!
    His best efforts come from voice sampling on a DSi. I often hear something I've just said come back distorted into a bird song or a robot chant. That's creative, isn't it?

  2. My son Tevis, who is now 22, has always loved doing art projects. Now, as a child, most of his endeavors were a little unfocused...he had an obsession with getting paper wet and putting it in a baggie. But as he's matured, so have his creative ideas. He spends a lot of time every day on various projects, and uses youtube to watch instructional videos on bookbinding, sketching, etc. We are lucky enough to have an art studio here (Turner Center for the Arts) that has an open studio every weekday for artists with and without disabilities. Tevis is also driven to have his own business, so he is working to produce notecards with his artwork. He sort of blows me away!

  3. I think doing art projects with kids, helps development there creativity!

  4. Amen!! Very well said and it is wonderful that you are fostering Max's creativity. Nora is just a year old, so I have to get creative about fostering her creativity :) I need to think about it more. Thanks for bringing it to my attention with todays post.

  5. We're putting in a small vegetable garden this year. We did it a few years ago, and E. loves getting it ready, planting and watering (and sometimes weeding).

    And then when something actually grows, and you can eat it? Priceless. Last time, one of the things we planted was parsley, and it grows in every year now. This year we picked it and used it for our Pesach seder for the green herb that's eaten.

  6. I am not sure if community service could be classified as a creative activity but I have found that being the helper and not the helped has given me confidence :)

  7. Ellen, Have you tried bath crayons Max may like a purple one great book. Every year this time my school does awards per garde and Adian a boy with autisum won the Best Artist in 8th Grade yea! He is a great artist but some kids were mad that according to them a r worded kid who is not even in a grade does not deserve an award and an another big art breakthrough kids who are classifed special ed get to be in the art show finally that means I get to! yea I am soo happy i get to have my piece in this year


Thanks for sharing!

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