NEW!: 74-year-old swimming coach, Barbro
Thörnelöf of Sweden, fondly recounts her eventful journey with her autistic
swimmer, Cattis, who won a Gold medal at the '92 Paralympics! Check out>>
The importance of art in the world of a challenged pupil.
My name is Robin Opperman and I am the Head of Art and Technology at the
Ningizimu School for the Severely Mentally Handicapped. This is a school
just South of central Durban on the East Coast of South Africa.
The term Severely Mentally Handicapped (SMH) is very broad and crude. It
therefore contains a wide range of abilities and skills. A discipline such
as Art allows us to ensure that every pupil has an opportunity to express
their abilities and potentials to the maximum. This is crucial, as in most
cases their avenue of written or any kind of academic work is confined to a
very basic level of expression.
A pupil such as Siyabonga is therefore able to tell us all something about what he is feeling, as well as give insights about the world around him.
Despite that fact that he is Zulu speaking, he is also able to communicate
effectively his emotions, insights and observations to a global audience in
something like ThinkQuest, without learning a whole new language. Siyabonga
can therefore communicate via his drawings. This is also important locally,
as we have eleven official languages.
For example if one looks at the artwork on his emotions, even in his mother
tongue, he could never find the words to adequately express these emotions
the way he can in a drawing.
As educators we can also learn to interpret the pupils drawings, and in some
cases we can pick up what is going on in their home lives or what is
troubling. We can also better determine what their interests and true
passions are, and explore and build on those.
HOD-Art and Technology
Ningizimu School for the SMH