Expression through art

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SPECIALISED art and dance workshops helped youngsters express themselves.

The students at Sunderland’s Thornhill Park School, who are all autistic, took part in a three-day arts and dance workshop.

Students at Thornhill Park School taking part in a 3 day art and dance workshop, Artist, Karen Rann from VARC helping Danny Elkin.

Students at Thornhill Park School taking part in a 3 day art and dance workshop, Artist, Karen Rann from VARC helping Danny Elkin.

The project was funded and organised by Visual Arts in Rural Communities, VARC, which is based in Northumberland, and has enabled art projects to take place in schools that bring a different creative experience to special needs students.

Two artists, Karen Rann and Chris Folwell, ran the workshops, with Karen working with the students to create artwork using recycled bottles and other materials, and Chris supporting the young people in building a giant den.

Dance group, Bare Toed from Dance City, were also involved in the project and they erected a rig in the garden with suspended cocoons and trapezes for students.

Michelle Khan, art teacher for the North East Autism Society, NEAS, which runs Thornhill Park School, said students with autism have various sensory needs and the cocoons were a huge success and very engaging.

Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others and to their environment.

Children with autism have a distinctively different way of processing information and seeing the world. They need structure and routine, otherwise anxieties can lead to disruptive behaviour.

As a result of their complex needs and challenging behaviour, they can often become isolated from society and peers and not get the opportunities to socialise and have fun that other children take for granted.

Michelle said: “This event has given our students so many new experiences. Many children would not normally be able to engage in these group activities due to their own individual difficulties.

“However, the workshops and the carefully planned layout of the event has given them the opportunity to have the freedom to express themselves through painting, dancing, spinning, swinging and making art. They have been able to combine their mind and body, with new experiences to produce wonderful works of art.”