University of Edinburgh

Therapeutic Use of Art with Visually Impaired Pupils Focus on Visual Impairment
and Hearing Impairment

Presented in January, 2005

OutLook in LOOK Presents the Therapeutic Use of Art Seminar


By Vicky Smith, Youth Development Officer, LOOK

  1. Introduction
  2. Sensory Game
  3. MindsEye
  4. Questions
  5. Demonstrations
  6. Practical in Pairs
  7. Warm up Workshop
  8. Ambition Workshop


Man who tasted shapes picture

Therapeutic Use of Art

The therapeutic use of art involves the making of images, pictures or models that help to express and explore inner feelings and emotions.

  • Expression
  • Range of People
  • Creative Process
child's painting of eyes with spectacles

OutLook Workshops

  • Fun and Informal
  • Starting Block
children at a workshop

Seeing the Whole Person

?their visual impairment is only a part of who they are, a part which may have an effect on their self-image? they are parts of the whole being?

?when I ?see? only a visual impairment I lose my focus on the individuality of those seeking my help, and thereby collude with discrimination of a society that limits an individual with their disability?

(Maggie Rowe, Counselling the Visually Impaired)

Cognitive, Sensory and Kinetic Development

  • Visual perception
  • Spatial awareness
  • Confirmation of
  • reality
  • Physical action
  • Sensory Stimulus
child working on a 3D painting

Emotional Content

?There may be certain psychological difficulties common to specific groups, although it must be noted that these difficulties do not occur automatically by virtue of having a visual impairment.?

?Art Therapy with the Visually Impaired by Mary Levens?


Social Model of Disability

"Disability is a condition imposed on disabled people by society and is created by prejudice, fear, myths and ignorance. It limits opportunities for education, employment, financial independence and full social interaction. It is only be acceptance of the social model that disabled people will be valued as individuals and be allowed to fulfil their potential, as identified by themselves."

Social Barriers


Personal Challenges


Emotional Concerns


Emotional Development through Art

  • Self Identification/Self Worth
  • Independence and Confidence
  • Communication
  • Expression of Emotion
  • Emotional Security
child's 3D artwork using multicloured pipecleaners and feathers

Creative Signals presenting Emotional Development

Creative Process

  1. Non-verbals
    • Pace
    • Proximity
    • Movements
  2. Individuality
    • Creative type
    • Relationship to Image
  3. Content and Choices
    • Colours
    • Tools
    • Materials
    • Quantity
    • Placement, quadrance


Creative Type : Haptic

haptic sculpture
  • Subjective
  • Kinaesthetic Experiences
  • Establishing Relationship with Outside World
  • Emotional Reaction

?characteristic sense of volume and interior energy?. Sue Blagden and John Everett

Creative Type : Visual

  • Objective
  • Representation of Objects
  • Creator as a spectator
  • Naturalistic, replica of stimulus
  • Less involvement of ?Self?
visual relief sculpture

?does it look the same as it feels?? Sue Blagden and John Everett

Images from Visual Memory

drawing of a man's facedrawing of a woman's face

Observations on Non-verbal Communications

Pace and Placement

  • Shy children with intense qualities of blindness and introversion do not express themselves easily through painting and finish quickly as if they desired to ?free themselves?.
  • Children who have accepted their blindness draw slowly, steadily, pose lots of questions and generally enjoy painting.
  • Children with well-established social relations and high intelligence draw easily making leisurely movements.
  • The child characterized by depression and timidness prefers to draw in the edges (in the corners) of the piece of paper.
  • Finally, the size of the paintings increase with age.
Magda Bolou ? Gouveri 2000

Independence and Confidence

various shapes on a table

?Freedom in decision making self-management, independence and participation in making decisions. Power over one's own life.? (Klaus Vilhelmsen- Head of School, Deafblind, Denmark)

Self Identification and Self Worth

sticking shapes together to form a figure

"Creative actions are expressions of identity, ability to be creative is looked upon as one of the essential components of identity." (Klaus Vilhelmsen- Head of School, Deafblind, Denmark)

Creativity and Freedom

flow chart

Inspired by Klaus Vilhelmsen, Head of School, Deafblind, Denmark Communication

Making A Social Comment

still lights by sally booth

Still Lights by Sally Booth

Expression of Emotion

chld's montage of objects



Repetition and Security

children working in the art room

Security in repeating creations particularly in unfamiliar settings and situations, insuring mastery over forms. Taken from Lowenfield 1957

Emphasis on Process

Security in Existence

art objects on a table

?The primary concern for Richard, and others, is with their work?s existence rather than its appearance, made to BE in itself rather then to be looked at?This would seem to reflect the essentially conceptual approach of many students who have never seen.? Sue Blagden and John Everett

Teacher and Learning Support Relationship with Student

  • Identification with Student
  • Level of Visual Interpretation required
  • Creative Type
  • Environmental needs
  • Student perception
  • Needs of Expression
  • Student relationship to creation
multicoloured polished stone drawing

Environment and Atmosphere

?children who feel secure are not easily distracted by their surroundings and are confident in their environment? Lowenfeld

Therefore one must strive to create a safe environment.

  • Lighting
  • Work surfaces
  • Mobility Access
  • Low Vision Aids
  • Labelling
  • Stimulating Visually and Tacitly

Accessible Tools and Materials

  • Metal Sheet Paper, engraving
  • Embossing Powder
  • Aluminous Paint
  • Quilling
  • Outlining
  • Modelling
children working children working

Teacher and Learning Support Adopt;

  • Visual and Tacitly stimulating accessible environment
  • Accessible art mediums, methods, tools and materials
  • Democratic Approach
  • The young persons experience, needs of expression and perception
  • Emphasis on the importance and relevance of creation
  • Visual and Tacitly stimulating accessible environment
  • Accessible art mediums, methods, tools and materials
silhouette of gilr painting