Art Therapist’s Third Hand

Recently I went to Cori’s Place (a non-profit day program agency serving adults with intellectual disabilities), and the Deutsch Institute (a non-profit agency committed to the promotion of new approaches in leisure and recreation for persons with disabilities) came to us here at Marywood. Both of these groups are populations with developmental disabilities. With each group when we were doing the directive I felt as though the Art Therapist’s Third Hand came to play a lot. This is when the art therapist needs to help facilitate the art making process with the client. It could be a little thing such as mixing paints or something more such as a hand over hand guiding.

When the Deutsch Institute was here we did a stain glass directive with tissue paper that was ultimately going to be a family mobile. I was working with two ladies most of the time. One that didn’t talk but was very much enjoying making her piece; she understood everything and just went for it. When it came to hanging her pieces to make the mobile she could tie but I noticed it was taking her sometime so we did it together; she would tie one end and I would tie the other. The other woman I was sitting with needed a little more guidance. In the start of the directive you have to cut up pieces of tissue paper, when I asked her what colors she wanted she said, “Thanksgiving!” so I decided to give her fall, thanksgiving colors. When it came to cutting the tissue paper most people in the group were ripping it since that was easier so I thought that’d be perfect for her but when I said that and showed her she didn’t respond. I then decided that I would rip her some pieces and see if she could stick them to the contact paper on her own, which she did. This was great because she could still make it her own by placing the different colors in whichever form she wished. I had to facilitate the process by doing some things for her until we found something she could do and enjoy. I feel like this experience opened my eyes and truly made me understand the art therapist’s third hand.

A couple days later, we went to Cori’s Place, which is an adult day center for those with developmental disabilities. There we made hand turkeys with the things or people we were thankful for on them. The entire group was great and so enthusiastic. There were aids around helping specific people, maybe writing out the words for them or such, but the woman across from me was guiding the clients hand to write and I really enjoyed that because it was a way to start him drawing on the paper. I was working with two people the one man couldn’t see but he told you everything he wanted on it and then he could color it in on his own. I was talking to the girl I was working with who had downs syndrome she was telling me all about her boyfriend and his name was dead center of her turkey and she was so excited about it and she asked to go show him it and I said sure and she found him and he was so happy about it too and it was the most pure, wholehearted relationship I’d ever seen.

When she was off talking to her boyfriend I noticed the boy from before who the aid had helped guide earlier, was just sitting there (I don’t think he could talk.) I went over to him and his turkey wasn’t decorated so I decided we were going to decorate it together. I would pick up a different colored crayon and the one he reached for was the one we were going to use. When I gave it to him I notice his hand would shake whenever he started to try and draw therefore since I saw the aid early guide him and over hand I did the same. We ended up making his turkey striped. I learned a lot from this because it showed me it’s okay to give that helping hand when someone can’t exactly do something on their own. I still have a lot to learn and through experiences like these lessons happen right under your nose which I am grateful for.

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