The Art of communication

Seashell students are using art to help communicate with the world – and hoping to earn a qualifications at the same time.

Royal College Manchester students have some of the most complex disabilities in the country. They all have communication difficulties.

And now they are showing off their artwork at a public exhibition.

Diane Verso, Royal College art teacher, said: “Our students can find daily life difficult. Students who have autism are very sensitive to everyday stimuli. Other students have severe learning and communication difficulties. It can lead to frustration and behavioural difficulties when they cannot make their needs known.

“It can be difficult to connect with their environment but they can enjoy art as a sensation, a language by which to communicate, a calming experience.”

Students in the multi-sensory department have complex physical needs as well as being non-verbal. To them, having art that can be enjoyed through touch is vital.

Diane explained: “These students may have epilepsy, hearing and sight impairments. They are often locked in their own world, have little or no means to communicate using normal channels. Art, for example sensory-focused activity such as felt-making, is used to help these students make connections.”

Robyn Gee, 19, has autism. She finds it difficult to communicate but art has given her a new outlet and possibly a way to earn money when she graduates.

Diane said: “Art is helping Robyn to be more independent, she is able to find equipment in the art room and ask for help. She is a gifted artist and produces very detailed work with felt-tip pens. She loves photography. Robyn could, given the right support and encouragement, make art a career.”

She added: “Art is used as a framework to enhance communication skills. I am trying to offer students a range of art opportunities, textiles, print, sculpture and even design technology as well as traditional painting.”

A handful of students will be put in for the entry-level certificate Exploring Art, with a view to increasing numbers next year. This Bronze Arts award, which is equivalent to a D-E grade at GCSE level, is a mainstream award is accredited by Trinity College London, in associn ation with the Arts Council England.

The art class has been invited to exhibit their work at Jobling Gowler Solicitors, a law firm based in Macclesfield, and have already displaying pieces to friends and family at the Seashell Trust's annual Big Thank You event.