When was the last time you did something that allowed you creative self-expression?
I started painting when I was 9 years old. My dad saw that I could draw, and he signed me up for painting classes. I immediately started painting as if I had done it in another life; I just knew how to do it. My painting teacher told my mom I was gifted with color and could blend and create color like a pro, even though I had just begun taking lessons. Painting made me happy and gave me great joy and still does to this day. This is one of my paintings as a child when I was beginning to learn the art of oil painting.
Creative self-expression is an amazing form of self-care. It is therapeutic and puts you in the present moment. It reduces stress and anxiety and elicits joy. Simply put, it raises your vibration and sense of well-being.
Having a special needs child and balancing typical life can be overwhelming. Advocacy is challenging and can cause more stress and anxiety for parents of special needs children. Therefore, we need to find ways we can take better care of ourselves and develop a positive mindset.
Everyone has some kind of gift that provides a way for us to experience creative self-expression. What lights you up and makes you happy? Think back to when you were young…what did you enjoy doing? Many people believe they are not creative and wouldn’t know how to answer this question. Or maybe you know what it might be, but you have limiting beliefs around it such as; I don’t have enough time, there’s no one to take care of the kids, I can’t afford it, or I’m too overwhelmed with life, in general, to pursue (fill in the blank.)
Being creative doesn’t have to be something that causes more pressure than we already have. It can be as simple as cooking, gardening, writing, listening to your favorite music, or dancing in your living room. It is something you can put your whole body into and get lost in the moment of creativity.
My daughter, Chanel, loves to paint too, so we paint together. Both Chanel and I love to work in the garden, so Chanel will pot flowers and work in the garden with me. If you receive respite hours, you can have a respite worker take care of your child to free you up to do something creative. Once you start exploring and doing something creative, you will begin to see the benefits right away and will want to invest more of your time taking care of yourself. If we don’t take care of ourselves and we get sick, who will take care of our child?
This is one of Chanel’s recent diamond art creations!
I saw a video on TikTok of an Australian Shepard who loves to paint. No kidding… he picks the paint color, his owner applies the paint on the brush, and he paints on the canvas with his mouth. He painted a flower, leaves and all. He loves to paint “modern art” too. Absolutely mind-blowing! If a dog can paint, we can certainly find our gifts of self-expression and support our child to develop their areas of creative strengths as well.
If we don’t take the time to invest in our own gifts and talents, how will we help our child to discover their own gifts and talents?
Creative self-expression will increase your child’s self-esteem and avoid feelings of being “less-than” or insufficient.
Supporting your child to use their talents opens the doors to future job opportunities after high school and will provide ideas that will assist you in developing the “Transition Plan” in the IEP. The Transition Plan, mandated by Federal Law, is a portion of the IEP that begins at age 16. It includes specific goals that are focused on employment, secondary education, and independence after high school.
So, supporting your child to develop their strengths at an early age will give you a head start with knowing what direction to take when planning for the future.
Creative self-expression goes hand-in-hand in managing the “inner game.” A healthy mindset plays a BIG role in successful advocacy and self-care is the key to a healthy mindset. It’s so easy for parents of a neuro-diverse child to fall into the victim role. We can look at having a child with special needs as a tragedy and hold feelings of resentment and even feel betrayed by life.
Many parents feel the need to apologize for their child or feel grateful a teacher is willing to have their child in the classroom. It is typical for parents with this kind of mindset to want to fix their child so they can fit into our social norms and not look different. This kind of mindset is toxic, both for you and for your child.
An empowered mindset is one of acceptance. This parent will see their child as a special gift and realize their child is their teacher. An empowered parent knows how much their child has already taught them and holds an awareness of how much they will continue to learn from their child. This parent will hold high expectations for their child and not buy into the bleak predictions that doctors or psychologists may offer. This parent will recognize their child’s strengths, gifts, and talents and accept their child just as they are. There is no desire to fix their child because they aren’t broken. This parent will advocate to provide their child with everything they need to reach their highest potential in life. An empowered parent will expect their child to receive an education equal to that of their typical developing peers, without reservation or apology for their disability. And an empowered parent has learned how to become the coach of their IEP team, taking a seat at the IEP table, prepared and knowledgeable about the rights of their child.
Katie, a little girl in Russia with the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, is an amazing artist. She paints lying down on her bed because she has a tracheal tube and it’s the only way to have the painting close enough to her, as she holds the brush with her small, crippled hand. Katie’s works of art are truly magical and pretty much miraculous. When I saw Katie’s video and went to her website to discover her library of glorious creative self-expression, my heart was filled with so much awe and wonder.
Without delay, I purchased one of her prints and made a donation to support her in her work as a gifted entrepreneur. Katie was my inspiration to write this blog. She is a perfect example of how children with special needs can contribute to our world in a beautiful way if they are supported with what they need. If you’d like to see more of Katie’s work, go to https://www.facebook.com/ekaterinapainter
Our kids are valuable and precious. Our kids have gifts, talents, and creations to offer the world and so do you.