A new program at a local community center seeks to help children with autism and other cognitive disabilities with a unique medium: the arts.
The Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center began its “Creative Therapies” program this week, using dance and art to help kids with disabilities. These therapies have been proven to help kids with disabilities express themselves, improving social skills and self-esteem, according to the Recreation Leader Kim Gerlach.
"These forms of therapy have shown to be beneficial with changing a child’s behavior, which allows them to learn to stay focused on tasks," she added.
The dance therapy can enhance posture and coordination as well as calm and stimulate. The arts programs can help express emotions and ease tension and anxiety, she says. The dance class will be taught by Karen Patton while the other classes are taught by staff members with degrees in art.
Gerlach said inspiration for the program came from her own experience. Her son has a disability so she knows first-hand how difficult it is to find affordable activities. "You want to expose children to arrange of different things but when they have a special need there are other things to consider," She said finding the right environment, with the right staff and someone with the "heart and patience" to create and run the program proved difficult.
The program, which continues through June, will include classes on “hand building” with clay, drawing and painting and using the pottery wheel, as well as dance.
The center has developed the program with the guidance of Spectrum, an autism support group based in Duluth. The non-profits hosts a variety of seminars and outings geared toward kids on the autism spectrum and their families
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to join the classes with the children.
Creative Therapy Schedule
All ages Dance, Wed. Feb. 15 until March14, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., $32
All ages Dance, Wed. March 28 until April 18, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. $32
5 and up Hand building, Wed. Jan. 11 until Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. $50
5 and up Painting/Drawing Feb. 22 until March 28, 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. $50
12 and up Wheel April 5 until May 10, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. $50