Andrea Hrysko eager to share benefits of art making for people who have an intellectual disability
When Andrea Hrysko first smoothed out a piece of paper and handed a paintbrush dipped in colour to a man she supports, he didn’t know what to do. She suggested he dab the colour in one spot on the paper and then showed him how to rinse out his brush and pick a new colour. Again he was stumped about where to put his brush.
“Every single time he dipped his paintbrush in the paint, he didn’t know where to put the paint,” Andrea, a senior support worker with posAbilities, recalls.
Whether it’s moulding clay, painting or even getting creative with foam stickers, anyone can benefit from creating art, says Andrea. But she’s most eager to share the benefits of making art with people who have an intellectual disability. Trained and certified as an art therapist, Andrea’s thesis was a qualitative study based on college students who have an intellectual disability exploring two specific forms of art.
Pride in one’s self as a person can be enhanced as one creates, shows and shares artwork, Andrea says. “When (people) are able to create a finished product and feel good about that, and then they go out into the world, they feel better about themselves out there too,” she says.
Doing artwork also provides another way for people to express themselves, which can be especially valuable for people for whom verbal communication is limited.
Related to this are the opportunities for what Andrea calls self-actualization and self-determination. People who have an intellectual disability often have limited access to these opportunities. But with the artwork, “they are creating what they want, how they want.”
Taking the time to be artistic can enrich the daily lives of people who have an intellectual disability, Andrea adds, noting many have their set schedules but this allows them to “mix things up, explore and be creative.”
Andrea has also arranged for people from different parts of posAbilities to work on art together, so there can be an added social component for participants.
Finally, doing art provides different kinds of opportunities to practise and develop skills such as hand-eye co-ordination and manual dexterity.
Andrea is hoping to raise awareness within posAbilities about the value of art making and how to integrate it into the lives of people the agency supports.
“I think that a lot people in this agency are aware of options like music therapy, but not so much of art therapy,” she says.
She is hoping this story will help spark interest. She also plans to continue organizing opportunities for the people she works with and elsewhere.
As for the man mentioned above, since taking part in the art projects Andrea has introduced as part of her work with him and other people she supports through posAbilities, he has become completely confident in what he is doing and eagerly turns a blank paper into a piece of art without any assistance.
Another young woman Andrea works with took a shine to clay work, especially to forming clay bowls. Her pride in her work has grown as her skills have increased. Recently she showed this by taking the time to paint the bowls as well, Andrea says.
To learn more about art therapy, visit Andrea’s website, www.art4lifetherapy.com.
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