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Using art and language to help children reach their unique potential

- May 16, 2013

A pilot program at The Infants' Home examines some wider roles for Speech Pathology and Art & Play Therapy in early education.

A group of children at The Infants’ Home took part in a program that explored how Speech Pathology and Art and Play Therapy can support children to improve communication skills, develop social and emotional abilities, and build their self esteem.

The six-week program looked at how art and language could strengthen a child’s development in areas such as attention and listening, language, emotional regulation, peer relationships and group skills.

The group, which included seven children, was conducted by Speech & Language Pathologist, Alice Berry; Art & Play Therapist, Pensri Rowe; and Art & Play Therapy student, Kathryn Cabrera Richards.

Why run such a group?

Pensri says challenges with behaviour can be a symptom of children experiencing social or emotional difficulties.

“Such children often find self regulation, developing positive relationships and peer interactions difficult, particularly if their speech or language skills are compromised,” says Pensri.

   

Speech Pathologist Alice Berry                                    Art & Play Therapist Pensri Rowe
 


Alice and Pensri wanted to explore the benefits of running a group together to:

What happened during group time?

Each session was structured to include:

What worked well?

Alice says the disciplines of Art & Play Therapy and Speech Pathology complimented each other and created a holistic, play-based approach for children with behavioural and/or emotional difficulties, who also presented with language delays.

“It gave each discipline a different perspective and insight into each child’s experience and development,” says Alice.

“It also provided opportunities to observe the impact of compromised social, emotional and language skills on each child’s functionality.”

Pensri says the program gave children a consistent and clear structure, which created a sense of continuity and predictability.

“A variety of individual, group activities and learning experiences helped the children to extend their attention span and allowed us to keep their emotional needs in mind,” says Pensri.

“The balance of directive and self-directed experiences gave the children opportunities to focus on their own learning tasks, as well as practise social and group skills.”

A seating plan was used from week 3 and this helped to manage group dynamics and specific abilities.

Reflections

Alice and Pensri say a few things influenced the dynamics of the group and what it was able to achieve for the children involved, such as the number of participants and an unbalanced inclusion of boys and girls.

“It was a challenge to meet the needs of each of the seven children,” says Alice.

“The children’s social, emotional and behavioural needs often eclipsed their communication needs, which resulted in missed opportunities to practise speech and language.

Recommendations

Alice and Pensri believe an educator should be involved in planning, facilitating and evaluating future groups.

“An educator is able to closely observe the children within the group environment, capture learning opportunities, and pass information back to the team more effectively,” says Pensri.

“It is also important that each facilitator’s role is well defined with clear expectations, and imperative that the chosen educator attends consistently.”

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