Drawing & Communication
Art as a form of communication and self-expression is nothing new, but it takes on a whole new level of importance when we consider the way that children use drawing. As a child, Garrett was diagnosed with autism. Before he learned to point at or ask for things he wanted, he learned to draw those things. His cartoons provide a much-needed entry point for his parents into his thoughts, emotions, and perspective on situations and events. For Garrett, art has become a way of interacting with a world that was mostly closed to him, a world of complex and inscrutable social interactions.
Garrett’s situation is special, but he’s not alone in representing the importance of drawing in early childhood development. Research shows that drawing contributes to the formation of a child’s concept of the world. There is a tendency to emphasize realistic representations of objects in the world, but in fact this could be counterproductive. In one of Garrett’s drawings, a response to an argument at home, the quiet young boy drew himself as the “aggressor” in an attempt to work through the emotions he was experiencing as a result of the argument. In situations like this, realistic representation takes a back seat to images that assist the child in making sense of the complex world around them. The implications are far-reaching, from the potential effects on art therapy programs for troubled youth to the negative ramifications of budget cuts in public schools that cripple or completely destroy fine arts education. In fact, there is too much here to pursue in this article, but I encourage you to begin a discussion in the comments to explore these implications, as well as your personal experiences with art during your formative years.
Personally, I loved to draw growing up. Since preschool, I have used drawing as a way to vent my frustrations and focus on more positive emotions. In math class, I might sketch a drowning stick figure off to the side of a two-column proof, and then doodle an ice cream cone in the margin. When words failed, or were too slow for my galloping thoughts, I would use drawings to work through difficult situations. I even made one of my best friends through drawings. In junior high, we were both teased mercilessly for our love of horses. One day during Math, after a particularly trying experience with a boy we’ll call Daniel, she passed me a folded piece of graph paper. When I opened it up, it was a drawing of Daniel’s head being crushed by a horse. Eleven years later, I still consider her one of my closest companions, and I have drawing to thank.