Although art may seem like just fun and games to some with the watercolors, crayons, and coloring books, art is just that: fun.
However, art goes beyond this for young children, especially children faced with special needs or learning differences. Children with autism, visually impairments, speech delays, sensory disorders, dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD can all find benefits from art. The value of art expands and connects these children to the world around them and helps with their development, and social skills. Having an artistic outlet also enhances their learning and encourages independence that is guided with love.
For 23-year-old mother Juliette Liss, art couldn’t be more of a blessing. Liss openly shared that even though some birth injuries are preventable, her son, Abraham, was one of many that were left with the long-term effects of prolonged labor and delivery. On April 7, 2017, she pushed for two hours with all of her strength, passing out and never seeing her son. Four hours after her son was born, she was finally able to hold him. Liss expressed that the trauma they both endured that day was the most painful experience a mother and child could ever encounter, leaving a new mother and father (Avery Liss) with tons of ignored and unanswered questions.
Recounting the experience, Liss said, “I knew immediately after my son’s birth that life was going to be different as a mother and that we were going to have to do things differently.”
Since the trauma, communication and speech have sustained lasting damages from that day. Abraham has struggled with delayed speech and speaking full sentences, but he and his mother are still hoping and praying for healing. Liss said, “I refuse to give up on ways to help my son talk. Imagine being filled with a lot to say and tons of emotion yet unable to express it?” She continued, “So, I started to use art as a way to help Abraham and myself. It has been my saving grace. Art is the number one tool to help my son communicate with the world around him; it plays such an important role in a child’s life, whether you believe it or not.” The more Liss talked, the more she shared about the benefits of art and how art helps reveal thoughts, feelings, fears, and interests. She also uses art as a safe outlet to foster her son’s excellent sense of self-esteem. Creativity can come in many forms, and Liss uses anything and everything to create with her son. She uses play dough, kinetic sand, dyed rice, sensory bins, coloring, painting, books with colorful pictures, glitter, and music.
Being the dynamic duo they are, they are overcoming the trauma of that day, hand in hand, side by side, and crayon to crayon. Abraham is now a healthy, strong, and energetic three-year-old, and he is also a loving bother to his four-month-old brother Theodore. Abraham is currently attending Pre-K in Effingham, Illinois, and started speech therapy last month. He is tackling his injuries with his mother’s help daily, but his biggest triumph and joy is his three-year-old best friend, Khaza Gross, the son of Breanna Alexander. These two young boys understand and embrace each other with friendship, love, kindness, laughter, and hugs. It is the highlight of Abraham’s week when he gets to play outside or play at the park with his best friend.
Nevertheless, at the end of Abraham’s day, he has learned from his mother that the art of communication is love, regardless of the obstacles that life holds.
Media by Frances Trujillo.