Published On: March 8, 2015

Our Manager of Adult Day Services Tracy Wright has taken the past 2 years to bring art into the regular programs available through Community Day Supports. With the help of staff, interns and volunteers, multiple pieces of art have been created and sold through art exhibits or by commission. In today’s post, Tracy and her intern Mu-Chien Tsai explain how art programming is beneficial for adults with developmental disabilities.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is a unique approach in working with individuals of all ages using trained clinicians. This type of therapy helps those involved to express feelings and thoughts, enhance self-esteem and self awareness, promote well-being, increase communication skills, and increase coping skills, just to name a few.
How are you implementing art therapy at Easterseals Crossroads?
Mu-Chien usually spends one or two sessions interacting and assessing his clients, writing down their strengths, limitations, needs, and possible goal(s). The materials and approaches will be adjusted and changed based on the clients’ needs, goals, and choices. From his perspectives, giving clients the opportunity to choose is very important because they already experienced a lot of limitations in their lives, and this would be a good opportunity for them to retrieve some freedom and their own voices. Sometimes Mu would combine the tasks with current events, like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, to increase the clients’ interests and motivation.
With the implementation of art therapy at Easterseals Crossroads, we have found that most of the clients within the Community Day Supports programs have expressed an interest in art. Art therapy has now grown into a full art program that includes art therapy, art classes and exploration, art shows and sales, and individual and group art sessions!
How many people participate in art program with us?
More than 35 clients have participated in formal art therapy sessions. Currently over 100 clients have participated in some aspect of art programming.
Have you come across any challenges with art programming, such as getting people involved who do not want to participate or adaptations that needed to be made due to a visual, physical or hearing disability?
It is normal to experience challenges working with individuals. As with everything we do, we focus on individuals’ abilities and strengths and build a program around the individual. We adapt the project to fit the needs of the group or individual. As an example, we have many who have limited movement in their hands or arms. Art can then be created with adapted art utensils using mouth pieces or foot pieces. Our popular adaptation of wheelchair art is when the wheelchair itself becomes a paint brush with simple adaptations allowing clients to create art by rolling on canvas.
What have been favorite art program projects?
We have had many art program highs in the last year. We have been commissioned for many art pieces by individuals and corporations. We’ve held several art shows and exhibits highlighting our clients’ pieces. One of our favorite projects has been creating pieces that have been used as greeting cards and special events promos.
How can the public get involved? 
We’re always appreciative of the donations of art supplies such as canvases, brushes, paints, clay, glue, mod podge, etc. If you are an artist yourself or just have a passion for art with some creative skills, we are always looking for volunteers to work and teach individuals and small groups. Finally, the easiest way to get involved is to come to an art exhibit and show your support.