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Drawings on Asphalt

Paraplegic special education students face many challenges participating in art therapy. The students’ physical impairments limit their range of abilities in the art making process. If these barriers are not properly addressed, there is the risk of students feeling frustrated or withdrawn. However, when art therapy is conducted properly, the challenges the students may initially face are overcome by the rewarding impact of the practice.

When initiating the idea of “Drawings on Asphalt” with my group of students, I have had in mind three main goals: outdoor activity (to increase ability of self-expression outside the regular setting), large-scale art (to stimulate body involvement in the art-making process), and last, but not at least, transforming their own impairment into an enabling art-making tool (to nurture physical and psychological empowerment and validation).

The spring revival was already showing its signs and it seemed the perfect time to make the transition from the regular indoor/classroom setting to the outdoor open space, from small projects to large scale drawings. Each student was provided with a “drawing device” consisting in a 3 feet long wood stick attached to the wheel chair structure on one end, and extended with colored drawing chalks on the other end. Once outside, the students reacted immediately starting to drive their wheelchairs in order to draw: a heart, a giant scribble, an abstract design, a geometrical shape…

The whole experiment brought a sense of enhanced freedom and abilities, students showing more independency in taking actions, making art, and communicating verbally their excitement. The great achievement was that the students’ actual physical impairment was not an obstacle or struggle anymore, but the main medium in the art-making process, which therapeutically became the “engine” for growth, empowerment, increased self-esteem and self-acceptance.