Four Paths to the Arts -- for Children with Learning Difficulties

Recently, Lillian Brooks, founder of reached out to me with a request: if she could write an article that outlined the benefits of arts education, especially for students with learning challenges, and have this article featured on my website.  Being an educator in the visual arts field, I have seen firsthand how this issue is critically important in today's educational systems.

For more information and/or to see how you can offer your support, please visit Lillian's website: or send her an email.



A study published in the journal Science found that around 10% of the population is affected by a learning disability of some kind. That amounts to 2 or 3 children in each classroom. These children sometimes struggle with the standard classroom model, usually with reading and language, but the arts may offer a solution. Through the arts, children with learning disabilities are able to learn and convey ideas that they might otherwise struggle to do. Here are four ways you can help get your child involved with the arts.


Painting and Drawing

Through painting or drawing, children with learning disabilities can express things visually that they may struggle to convey verbally. As PBS Parents explains, this can act as a release valve, a way of getting out their day-to-day frustrations. It can also enable children to deepen their understanding of concepts that they struggle process with language. For example, they could make paintings to show what different words mean to them, which can help develop their language comprehension. A great way to get children started in drawing is to set aside a hobby room, where they are free to create and play without worrying about creating a mess.



Some children are more practical, and prefer to learn by physically interacting with the world around them. Sculpture is perfect for this. Of course, you don’t give your child a block of marble and a chisel, and tell them to have at it. You can start out by teaching them clay modeling, paper mache, or crafts. As well as giving them a new way to express themselves, sculpture can help children learn, for example your child may become more familiar with the alphabet by making clay letters. Again, a hobby room is ideal, so your children can play freely, and you don’t have to worry about your carpet being damaged.



What do Joss Stone, Ozzy Osbourne and The Police drummer Stewart Copeland have in common? They are all successful musicians with dyslexia. Music can be a great way into the arts for children who aren’t visually-oriented, and there is some evidence that musical training can improve reading and other cognitive skills.

However, learning a musical instrument can be challenging, and requires a degree of initial motivation. To make it easier, think about what instrument would be best for your child -- base this on the music they like, and the amount of motor control that each instrument requires. If they’re interested in giving it a go, start with a trial run -- take them to a few classes and see how it works out.



If your child is high-energy and has trouble sitting still, dance might be a suitable art for them to get involved in. Dance enables your child to burn off excess energy, while at the same time develop their creative abilities and coordination. Sometimes the problems children with learning difficulties have are compounded by stress and frustration. The physical nature of dance, and the social connections that dance classes encourage, can be an effective stress-reducer. Another option is taking dance therapy classes, in which children are encouraged to demonstrate their emotions and spontaneity. This is a great counter to technical skill, which might be preferable to some children, as opposed to the structured nature of a skill-based class.

The arts are more than just a way to keep children busy for a while -- they can have real and long-lasting benefits. Art can help children communicate, build their confidence, and help them learn concepts that they struggle to grasp through normal classroom methods. Now it’s time to experiment -- ask your child what they might enjoy trying, and give it a trial run. At the very least, you’ll give them a new experience, and you might open up a world of benefits for them.

Photo credit: Pexels

Parentheses International Literary Arts Journal, Issue #3

The most recent issue of Parentheses International Literary Arts Journal has been published, both digitally and in print.  While I was at the Vermont Studio Center in December 2017, I wrote a poem titled "Ages" which traces family generations.  I am fortunate that this poem is featured in the current issue of Parentheses.

For more information on Parentheses International Literary Arts Journal, a publication that features poetry, fiction, art and photography, please visit the website.

To read and/or purchase a copy of issue #3 or past issues, please visit this page.

I offer my sincere gratitude to the editors of Parentheses Harshal Desai and Sneha Subramanian Kanta. 


Poetry Reading, Black Cat Books

On Sunday, January 14th, I had the pleasure of participating in a poetry reading at the Black Cat Bookstore in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  Almost twenty local poets treated us to some of their recent work which encompassed life in New Mexico, spirituality, illness, and coping with loss of a loved one.  The poems were powerful in their sincerity, and it was an honor to be in the company of such wonderful poets!

Photo credits: artists   Souheir Rawlings   ,   Caz Love   and   Meagan Thompson.  

Photo credits: artists Souheir Rawlings , Caz Love and Meagan Thompson. 

Vermont Studio Art Center - Writer-in-Residence

I am incredibly excited to accept and announce my participation in the Vermont Studio Center Artist in Residency program at the end of this year.  I have been admitted into the residency for my poetry.  I will spend a month in Johnson, Vermont deeply engaged in poetic and literary writing, as well as artistic and academic dialogue among other resident artists.

Throughout the residency's duration of the residency, I will maintain a series of blog entries detailing major events including visiting artists, performances, readings and presentations, etc.

For more information about the Vermont Studio Art Center, as well as upcoming residency and fellowship opportunities, please visit its website at


East Meets West Exhibition at Galaudet Gallery

I am pleased and honored to be a part of My Medicine: East Meets West, an art exhibition which addresses the critical importance of both Asian and Western traditions, practices and philosophies in medicine and healing.  This exhibition is through Galaudet Gallery's Eau Claire, WI location and will run from June 18th - September 18th, 2017.

Three of my drawings from the Interconnectedness series (2014 - 2015) have been selected for this exhibition.  The following is my statement/narrative regarding this body of work:

"This series of drawings is inspired by Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine, written by Shigehisa Kuriyama and originally published in 1999.  These works are created using handmade kozo paper made from traditional Japanese paper-making processes.  With pen and ink, I draw interconnecting lines and shapes that are rooted in both the imagery that comes from from my subconscious mind, as well as abstracted versions of various close-up photographs of foliage and human muscles.  These diverse images merge together to create new, hybridized forms that reference the interconnectedness — not only of the human body and nature — but also an individual’s inextricable relationship to the surrounding environment.  Interconnectedness is further referenced by the hand spun wool fibers which are attached to the back of each drawing to create an all-over network.  Lastly, the entire drawing is coated in a layer of translucent encaustic wax to create a physical “skin” which surrounds the image, conjuring associations of the protective nature of human skin, as well as its fragility."