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The clay works of visually impaired children and their change

Focus: School Years

Topic: Research

Asta Lapeniene

Educator of low vision persons

Kaunas Boarding - School for Partially Sighted Children

Doctoral student, Lecturer

Department of Education

Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University

LT-3000 Kaunas

LITHUANIA

82 999 3412

astal@takas.lt

The education of visually impaired children with the help of the fine arts is an ambiguous phenomenon. The importance of the development of blind and low vision child’s cognitive activity with the help of the fine arts often calls into question. As well as the fact that visually impaired children take the fine arts lessons and the images of sighted adults are applied ignoring the peculiarities of age and disorder.

This work is based on V.Lowenfeld’s (1964) attitude that child’s work is the result of previous experience. That is why the task of the fine arts educator is not to correct the creational expression but to develop sensitive and individually important relation to the surroundings. The more sensitive and significant relation to the surroundings is, the more expressive is the work. Then we can talk about more effective educational influence. In what ways could we stimulate versatile child’s that has visual impairment relation to the surroundings developing unique child’s self-expression by using the ways that leastwise partially compensate imperfect sight or blindness?

The purpose of the work is the search for the ways the artistical expression of blind and low vision children change and how they stimulate the development of child’s cognition. The theory of the variety of cognition acknowledges varies ways of cognition and types of intellect. The following types of intellect are accented (Gardner H. 2000): lingual, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, corporeal-kinesthetic, inner-personal and interpersonal. Five of them are adequate to five spheres of artistical activity. The rest two: logical-mathematical and inner-personal are also very important in artistical activity. That is why we more often acknowledge that arts is an underlying form of intellection and possible self and surroundings cognition through creation. Brazauskaite A. (2001) notes: “cognition skills that are traditionally developed with the help of speaking can also be appreciated and educated in artistical activity”. The artistical activity searches for new educational opportunities other than thinking and memorizing. Compensatory mechanisms that fill lacunas, which appear because of sight imperfection should be actuated.

Many authors note that body cognition of a low vision child is scant. According to D.Nemunyte, such children cannot perceive the real picture of their body. Some preschool age children that have sight imperfection can name and show the parts of their bodies but are unable to localize their position in the space. Low vision children’s expression is also limited.

The diagrammatical and superficial perception of the own body is reflected in the low vision children’s clay works that picture a man. The formed scheme of the youngest preschool children features a head, arms and legs. Here we can find knowledge about separate details of the body. Such a scheme has a huge psychological importance because it shows child’s ability to picture a man by himself/herself. However the man’s scheme that remains invariant for a long time is harmful and it reflects the lack of cognitive stimulus. In order a blind and low vision person could express the things he/she is unable to and that he/she could up rise to higher cognition level, it is essential for him/her to feel emotional and physical experiences.

Grenstad N. M. (19960 points that a proximate impact, that include not only what we hear, see or think, is essential for experience. Proximate experience functions in a different way. It provides experience that awakes body’s reactions and feelings that cannot be experienced by watching the objective material externally.

According to the author of the model based on the studying through experience Kolb D. A., the conduct of a learner changes only when he/she acquires new experience. The methodology for the development of the cognitive activity of blind and low vision children by using the plastic expression is based on D. A. Kolb’s learning from the own experience model:

  1. Particular experience is acquired.
  2. This experience is cogitated and activated by verbal and kinesthetic forms (it is described and expressed with the help of the move of the body).
  3. The experience is expressed with a new form: a clay work.
  4. The process of claying is reflected.

In this model man’s scheme in child’s clay works becomes a datum-point and reflects the present development level of a child. The variation of the scheme tells us about varied relations to the surroundings and the effectiveness of educational influence.

The research based on this model was carried out in Kaunas Boarding- School for Partially Sighted Children. Respondents were six 7-11 years old born blind or low vision children (3 respondents- the retinopathy of aborted babies- blindness, 2- the atrophy of the optical nerve, 1- high shortsightedness and retina detachment). The attention was concentrated not on the age but on the level of expression to which the work of the child was classed[1].

The research was pursued for two years. It consisted of five stages:

1.     The accumulation and selection of the material:

·       children’s works that pictured a man were collected and photos were taken;

·       the clay works that presented the scheme of a man formation tendencies were selected (an individual and repeated symbol, that directly expressed a man, appeared in the clay works of a child and it was used to picture varies types of people);

·       Six groups of clay work scheme were registered.

2.     New experience was acquired.

3.     The tasks, that matched experienced situations and allowed to personificate  kinesthetic and emotional theme’s experience, were presented. Themes were like stimulus that helps to show the opportunities of the use of children’s artistical expression and emotional and kinesthetic experience in a versatile way.

·       “Self-Portrait Chewing Raisins” (the physical activity of the particular part of a body).

·       “I Have an Eye Ache” (it was based on the previous experience).

·       “We are Crawling on the Bulk and I am Climbing up the Rope” (it was based on the previous kinesthetic experience).

·       “Dance” (it was based on physical and emotional experience).

  1. The picturing of the experience (the process of claying).
  2. The naming of the experience acquired by claying.

The analysis of the peculiarities of artistical expression was based on the verbal interpretation of blind and low vision children’s works. The naming of the experience by claying was a very important part of creational process. At that time the thinking and attention of a child was paid to the pictorial sphere. Such naming and describing allowed an educator to perceive individual symbols that expressed what a child wanted to picture. During the research it was aimed for creating free and creative atmosphere. The respondents were asked not to be worried about the result. The most important thing was to express the attitude to the pictured object. The duration of every scheme’s expression took 45 minutes.

The aim of the theme “Self-Portrait Chewing Raisins” was to stimulate to picture a mouth more expressively. In order to create direct kinesthetic experience and to activate passive knowledge, raisins were being chewed during molding. Compared to the scheme the expression of lips varied in all the works. An expressively opened mouth with upper and lower lips appeared in four clay works instead of the mouth, which was pictured as a line. The first respondent pictured chewing teeth. Two respondents pictured raisins falling out of the mouth. “My cheeks are turgid. The raisins will start falling from my mouth”- one of them told.

A big change was registered in the work of the third respondent. Absolutely insignificant round head was changed into a small smiling head where the most important parts of the face appear. Formal rendering was registered only in the work of the second respondent. Other clay works were very expressive. They registered instantaneous mood and expressed satisfaction.

During molding the kinesthetic activity of the particular part of the body was reflected in more detailed expression. Children reflected those details of the face, which activated sensibility and attention.

Table 1

“Self-Portrait Chewing Raisins”

The sight, period of scheme formation

 
The scheme
 
The clay work
 

I respondent: Irma, in consequence of retinoblastoma both eyes have been removed, 9 years old.

 

 

Sh2

 

033

 

II respondent: Laura, the retinopathy of aborted babies, 7 years old.

 

Sh5

 

032

 

III respondent: Vaida, the retinopathy of aborted babies, 9 years old.

 

Sh1

 

031

 

IV respondent: Silvija, optical nerve atrophy, squint, nystagmus (V-OD=0,01 V-OS=0,1), 7 years old.

 

Sh4

 

029

 

V respondent: Rutele, inborn shortsightedness, the retina detachment (V-OD=0,03 V-OS=0,04), 7 years old.

 

Sh3

 

030

 

VI respondent: Indre, optical nerve atrophy (V-OD=0,02 V-OS=0,01), 10 years old.

 

Sh6

 

028

 

The expression graduated from separate parts of the face to the change of the body’s position in the space. This stage of expression was based on individually acquired experience and its reflection. Separate experiences were reflected in the interpretations  “I am Climbing up a Rope” and “I am Crawling on a Bulk”.

“At first I jump and climb… I am climbing up the rope. The sun is shining and the eyes are narrowed. That is why I have pictured them in such a strange way. Fists are clenched. I haven’t pictured the rope” (Rutele).

“I am standing with my hands lifted, hitched on the rope, griping the rope tight in my fists in order not to fall down” (Irma).

I climbed up on the fence. My friend helped me… one boy pushed me and I fell down… I didn’t cry… I laughed… I fell on my hands: on the snow…” (Indre).

The respondents pictured the experience of climbing up the rope in their works and experienced it again during the process of creation. Compared to the scheme the expression of arms and their position in the space changed mostly. Two of the respondents pictured clenched fists. One of them pictured enlarged hands with splayed out fingers. “I climbed and then loosened my hands”- the girl commented her work. The sixth respondent pictured herself with the arms propped against the ground because “I fell on my hands: on the snow”.

All the attention was paid to the change of body’s position in the space. A man was pictured in a move. That is why the facture was not used and the features of the face were clear only in two works. Eyes were pictured very attentively in one of them because “the sun was shining” while climbing up the rope.

The respondents that didn’t have climbing up the rope experience used the specially by teachers created experience. The purpose was to express the climbing up the rope experience acquired during the trip.     “I was scared to crawl on the balk. But Saulius helped me. I clawed to hold of him tight and twined around the balk with my legs. Though I have crawled the balk…”. Two embraced and crawling on the balk people were pictured. The person who led had longer arms. That was the way in which their importance was expressed. The girl’s experience was impressive that is why she pictured herself not only crawling on the balk but also tired after crawling. “When we got to the other side of the river I was very tired. I sat on the ground…” Comparing to the scheme the changed position of arms and other parts of the body showed that emotional and physical experience of the scheme helped to perceive the own position in the space. The naming and describing of the experience was a very important part of the creational process. A child pictured only those objects that were emotionally important and familiar. The most active and important parts of the body were pictured the most expressively.

Table 2

 “I am Climbing up a Rope”,  “I am Crawling on a Bulk”

The sight, period of scheme formation

 
The scheme
 
The clay work
 

 I respondent: Irma, in consequence of retinoblastoma both eyes have been removed, 9 years old

 

Sh2

 

052

 

II respondent: Laura, the retinopathy of aborted babies, 7 years old

 

Sh5

 

055

 

III respondent: Vaida, the retinopathy of aborted babies, 9 years old

 

Sh1

 

049

 

IV respondent: Silvija, optical nerve atrophy, squint, nystagmus (V-OD=0,01 V-OS=0,1), 7 years old

 

Sh4

 

048, 057

 

V respondent: Rutele, inborn shortsightedness, the retina detachment (V-OD=0,03 V-OS=0,04), 7 years old

 

Sh3

 

054

 

VI respondent: Indre, optical nerve atrophy (V-OD=0,02 V-OS=0,01), 10 years old

 

Sh6

 

051

 

Both the kinesthetic experience and emotional importance of the dance were reflected in the theme “Dance”. “Dance” was a great holiday for Irma that is why she spruced in her prettiest pleated dress expressing it with the help of coarse and patterned stripes. A joyful mood was expressed with the help of an arched line for the lips.Vaida changed the static symbol of a man to the dynamic and expressive creature waving with four hands. “I loved dancing. I waved with my both hands”. The emoting in this work reached the highest level. The girl did not care about the real number of arms. A dynamically moving body was much more important.

The sixth respondent did not create the real picture of a man either. A particular importance in this work was endued to the arms position in the space. One arm rested on the underlying flat, the other elbow was squared by the side. “When I dance I don’t know where my arms are, maybe everywhere?”

Compared to the scheme the fifth respondent’s picture of a man changed. The dance in the work was related to a particular holiday, nice clothing and blowing long hair. The detailed but static scheme of a person was replaced with a dynamic figure of a girl. The most attention was paid to the arms. Not only the position in the space was changed but also the palms of the hands and fingers were pictured.

Silvija developed the theme “Dance” in many works. She characterized a peculiar sensitivity for molding. It is reflected in the plastic scheme of a man. The alternation of the dancing scheme was more flexible and easier. During one period Silvija created 3-4 clay works not verbalizing their expression. She disassociated from the surroundings and submerged herself in the process of creation. When Silvija had time she returned to the theme of dancing during every period.

The change of arm position in the space and its specification dominated in the other children’s works while in Silvija’s works the dance was expressed with the movement of the whole body. Much attention was also paid to the arms. While molding Silvija was usually in the state of uncertainty what the result is would be. She relied on the creating and forming power of the hand. New ideas were born spontaneously in the process of creation. The plastic features of clay allowed the creator to reform a clay work for many times and to express not only the spectacular moment of dancing but also the whole process.

Table 3

,,Dance”

The sight, period of scheme formation

 
The scheme
 
The clay work
 

I respondent: Irma, in consequence of retinoblastoma both eyes have been removed, 9 years old.

 

Sh2

 

046

 

 III respondent: Vaida, the retinopathy of aborted babies, 9 years old.

 

Sh1

 

012

 

 V respondent: Rutele, inborn shortsightedness, the retina detachment (V-OD=0,03 V-OS=0,04), 7 years old

 

Sh3

 

007

 

VI respondent: Indre, optical nerve atrophy (V-OD=0,02 V-OS=0,01), 10 years old .

 

Sh6

 

005

 

 IV respondent: Silvija, optical nerve atrophy, squint, nystagmus (V-OD=0,01 V-OS=0,1), 7 years old.

Silvia developed the theme of dancing in many works.

 

 

Sh4

 

001

 

008

 

009

 

010

 

011

 

013

 

014

 

 II respondent: Laura, the retinopathy of aborted babies, 7 years old.

 

Sh5

 

053

 

Conclusions

1.     The child’s creation is first the result of previous experience. A.Kolb’s learning form experience model is one of the most effective ways to influence the creational expression of visually impaired children where important element such as versatile experience, its reflections and expression, perceiving himself/herself and acquiring new experience, merges into one unit.

2.     The interaction between speaking and plastic expression is very important in the creational process when a child has visual imperfections. Reflection in the verbal form allows the child to perceive and soak up what his/her own experience gives. Speaking and plastic expression become equal expedients for low vision children’s self-expression.

3.     Important changes are related to emotional and kinesthetic experience. There is a proximate relation between the kinesthetic activity of the particular part of the body and the change of the child’s work. Different variations of the scheme are registered. That is the move of the whole body, the change of the position of separate parts of the body in the space, the enlargement of emotionally important and active parts, the skip of unimportant parts and the expression of emotionally important parts with the help of new symbols.

4.     Physical and emotional experience has influence on the change of the scheme of blind and low vision children. The sight at this age is not the most important factor while kinesthetic activity dominates. The image of the world perceived by touching is typical for the early creational expression of the both sighted and low vision children.

5.     The research has proved that independence, mobility, varies experiences acquired by forming elementary-essential and logical-mathematical skills related to touching have the biggest influence on the change of plastic expression. While molding low vision children characterize active true-life position in various spheres of activity. Molding has an important therapeutical and compensatory meaning. Low vision children have a wish to mould despite the achieved results.



[1] The change of the names is based on confidentiality and ethical principle


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