Children with mild disabilities in Asia are often the ones who miss out on accessible and appropriate education being too able for special schools and yet struggling in the mainstream education system (Cornelius and Balakrishnan, 2012). This mismatch often plays out as behavioural issues and later underachievement (Heiman, 2001), depression, and disengagement in society (Dekker et al., 2002). The idea of inclusion, that is children being able to have access to and choices in equal education experiences (Mittler and Mittler, 2000) is new in Singapore (Lim et al., 2013) and the behavioural implications of mild intellectual disabilities are only just starting to be addressed.
How can these children be included and helped to reach their full potential? At CreateCATT we believe that the creative arts therapies have some unique contributions to make to learning, behaviour and the overall success and happiness for children with intellectual disabilities.
We have seen from experience that engagement in the creative process (Rees, 2004), where the child has ownership and engages in self-expression and exploration (Jennings, 1995, Essame, 2009) can help build self esteem and confidence which impacts on learning. And that positive attachment and attunement between the facilitator/teacher and the children, based on the therapeutic relationship, can impact on lifelong social and emotional learning (Greenspan, 1999, Winnicott, 1971).
The creative arts therapies have some unique contributions to make to learning, behaviour and the overall success and happiness for children with intellectual disabilities. Lets not forget the children in the middle and help them reach their full potential.
Caroline Essame is Director of CREATE- Creative Arts Therapy and Training Pte Ltd in Singapore. An Occupational Therapist, Creative Arts Therapist and Educator she has over 30 years clinical and educational experience. She runs a clinical practice for children with special needs at Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre and trains at the Social Service Institute in Singapore. She wrote and pioneered the Masters Programme in Art Therapy in Singapore in 2005, has been supporting Deepti Special School in Kerala, India, since 2011 developing innovative child development services and she also developed the first ever creative arts centre for children with autism in Malaysia in 2013. This paper is based on a school project with the Association for People with Special Needs (APSN) in Singapore initiated by Dr Francis Chen. Caroline is a published author on creative arts therapy in an Asian context and a seasoned conference presenter. www.createcatt.com.