How to use art to explore behavioral change among children with special needs.

On Friday, March 18th, students at Uganda School for the Deaf, a school for Deaf students in Uganda, participated in an art activity called My Changes, which was facilitated by Faces Up Uganda. This consisted of a self-representative drawing in the form of a sunflower with four different petals; each representing a specific aspect of the artist’s life such as behavior, talent, education, and family. Through this work, students drew on their four chosen aspects to create a piece that was representative of themselves. It was an interesting form of self-portraiture. 

Over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour session, students created diverse works depicting everything from activities they loved to behavioral changes over time. Students represented traits they were proud of such as collaboration and discipline, some of which students had previously struggled with and worked to develop over time. It was a fantastic display of students who had overcome personal adversity showing as such in art. 

A student at the Uganda school for the deaf during the My Change session that happened on 18th March 2022

According to Teacher Patience, Faces Up Uganda’s contact teacher at the school, participants were unusually active and engaged in the project, especially compared to how they usually were during class sessions. Through art, students were able to bring out more of their individual selves than they could in class.

Also highlighted by the My Changes session was the strong sense of community among students at Uganda School for the Deaf. Before the session started, the class asked facilitators to wait for a boy in their cohort who was sick and hadn’t been able to attend other activities that day. Yet the students knew their friend was passionate about art when it came time to do the project, they did not want their friend to be forgotten. So, they waited, and soon after the boy joined the group and happily participated in the art session. 

Most important from the March 18th session was the sense of joy and unity within the group of students. According to a 2018 University of Manchester study, Deaf students are often cut off from their peers in school due to being placed in separate classes, making it all the more important for the students to be able to find a sense of community with their peers and develop friendships. What’s more, the students were able to participate in the artistic activity in an environment made for them, which the study cited as being hard to find in the traditional school system. Giving the Deaf students at the school space to comfortably express themselves and socialize therefore offered immense benefits to the student’s mental well-being and through that their health as a whole. 

Many students, regardless of gender, depicted football in the talent section of their pieces, expressing a love for the sport that highlighted the school’s efforts to promote gender equity and inclusion. Students even started up a co-ed football match where they played easily with each other. March 18th was an outpouring of energy and happiness through art, showcasing the power of art and a strong community within Uganda School for the Deaf. 

This article was developed and compiled by Ssekitto and Madeline Raymond. Share this post with someone you believe would enjoy it.