This is an art-based sensory activity that provides a slow-paced opportunity to make art not only accessible but a meaningful opportunity for communication, interaction, wellbeing and autonomy. The effectiveness of this experience relies on our presentation of the activity and whilst this activity results in a finished product, the beauty and real benefit of this activity lies in the process.
What you need
- A selection of non-toxic and skin safe paint colours (can be themed if desired, for example red, yellow, orange and gold for an autumnal feel, blues, whites and silvers to create a water theme)
- Card – black or white will provide a good visual contrast between the paint and the background
- A shallow tray
One or a selection of the following:
- String or twine
- Gift ribbon
- Bubble wrap cut into strips
Guidance and instructions
- Communicate throughout the activity, showing and explaining in a way that they can be best understood.
- Dress in suitable loose clothing that allows free movement. It is a good idea if the clothing is old and can be happily worn for a messy activity, without restriction or concern about getting paint on clothing or body.
- Pour the paint onto the tray – if the person is able to make decisions through eye-pointing, vocalising or other means, this can be an opportunity for making choices about what colours to select. You can continue to offer different paint colours throughout the activity, but do so slowly so as not to overwhelm the senses or processing capacity.
- Give opportunity to move their hands in the paint and allow time to process the sensation.
- Offer more paint to feel. Look for communicational initiations and responses revealed in body language, gesture and facial expression.
- Use hand-under-hand support if required and look for signs of enjoyment or unease at feeling the paint slime over their hands and yours.
- Steadily introduce the different tactile stimuli to the person to feel in their hands and immerse in the paint. As with the paint, offer one at a time and give plenty of time to process the stimuli. This make take longer than you expect but don’t feel pressured to fill any periods of silence. The silence is precious thinking time and it is important we don’t interrupt or bombard whilst processing.
- Utilise opportunities to bring in other senses. The beads for example make a great noise when moved around in a tray.
- Support the person to coat the beads, string, ribbon or tinsel in lots of paint so that the main sensation is of slimy paint, but with added tactile sensations.
- Throughout the activity look for communication responses in body language, gesture and facial expression as to their feelings about each stimulus.
- Coat whichever stimulus you are using in lots of paint and wind it around the person’s fingers and hands very slowly. Gently begin to pull to create the sensation of beads, string etc moving through the hands.
- Continue to introduce and move all of the different stimuli through the learner’s hands and fingers watching closely for sensations they like and perhaps don’t like.
- Repeat more of the liked sensations communicating to the learner throughout and ensuring their communicative responses are listened to, valued and acted upon.
- Show excitement and curiosity on your face as your pull it through their hands. Once they get used to this sensation, you can introduce elements of anticipation by adopting a ‘ready, steady, pull!’ approach.
- Position the card so that the person can experiment with moving the paint covered string or other medium on the paper to form patterns. You can also support the person to press the card down onto the tangled beads, string, tinsel etc to create a piece of art.
- Enjoy! – Your enjoyment of the activity will aid your learner in feeling happy and confident with the stimuli so smile, get messy and have lots of fun!
What to observe, assess and record
- Communication – Fundamentally this is a great communication opportunity and is actually as important as the process itself. It is about the learner feeling valued and listened to through the creative process so that they can participate in an art-based activity in a way that not only produces something beautiful at the end but may enhance their wellbeing.
- What emotional impact the experience had at the time and after.
- How the person responds when they share their art work with other people.
© Jen Steptoe – Jensory Ideas
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Created December 2020