Special Education

NYS School for the Blind, photos of the students
Art Therapy

Art Therapist: Jacquelyn Clements

What is Art Therapy? | Developing Skills | Self-Expression

Sharyann using talking crayons Lindsey using an adapted grip to help her paint in art class Purple painting createdby on of the students

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is an established discipline that uses the process of art-making to assist individuals in promoting well-being.  Art therapists believe that by engaging in creative expression an individual will be assisted with developing skills, increasing self-knowledge and self-esteem, improving behaviors and decreasing stress.  

Why Art Therapy at the New York State School for the Blind (NYSSB)?

The emphasis of the Art Therapy program at the NYSSB is to know each student on an individual level and to draw forth the maximum potential in each student.  Through a multi-sensory approach students are given the opportunity to develop skills, and express their unique experience of the world.  The emphasis in art therapy is sometimes placed on the “process” or all that occurs within the art experience.  The real therapeutic aspect is in creating the work of art. 

Students experiencing multiple disabilities can benefit in unique ways from participation in Art Therapy: 

Developing Skills

The intrinsic sensory quality of art materials can hold a joyful experience for the child, while the manipulation of the art supplies can teach cognitive skills as well.   Participating in an art experience offers an opportunity for a sensory experience in which a student is using many of their senses to experience the materials.  The approach is multi-sensory, drawing not only on visual skills, but also tactile perception (feeling, touching) and motor skills (gross and fine).  Research has shown that students who participate in the arts perform better in other areas because art helps students with whole-brain development.  Through cooperative learning and collaboration during art groups students are learning to work with others thus contributing to personal development.  Art is an essential element for well-rounded development in an educational program.  Work in the arts contributes to development of creative and higher-order thinking skills across the disciplines.  The power of the arts can literally change a person’s life by helping him or her to develop skills such as leadership, socialization, life enrichment, sensory development, manual dexterity, tactile exploration skills, development of texture sensitivity, communication and language skills, self-awareness, confidence, and creativity. 


When participating in art a student learns that not all problems have a single, correct answer.  This is a zone where imagination is encouraged, all perspectives are applauded, and each person has an opportunity to express their own perspective.  Students are given the opportunity to think and express in their own unique way.  Every student takes personal responsibility for their own work.  Art is an opportunity for a child coping with disability to have complete control over the direction and outcome of the experience.  This opportunity for control over their own creative expression helps to increase self-expression, pride and self-esteem through their accomplishments.  Creating works of art during Art Therapy offers a unique opportunity for the student, especially the student experiencing developmental, physical or other disabilities, to share their thoughts, emotions and experience of the world.  

Not to mention… Art can be so much fun!

Another interesting fact…

Notable artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Rembrandt, Dale Chihuly, and Francisco de Goya all experienced visual impairment or blindness…

Amanda creating her own painting doll made by one of the students red painting made by one of the students

Last Updated: October 27, 2014