After three years of running online social skills groups for adults with learning disabilities because of the pandemic, speech and language therapists Yasmin Bandali and Catherine Wylie at the Heart of Hounslow, celebrated their first series of face-to-face sessions since 2019.
Yasmin said: “Our service users have communication difficulties and we wanted to find a way to help them express themselves and to help build their confidence and self-esteem.
"After some research, we came up with using art as a medium because it can provide a way for self-expression, a voice to communicate, and can help improve self-awareness, self-esteem and self-discovery of emotions.
"It's been shown that creativity allows people to feel calm and feel a sense of achievement from what they have created.”
The team have developed structured art sessions to talk about feelings, ask questions, do artwork, and use Makaton songs. Using different mediums – including paint, pencils and clay - the sessions give service users an opportunity to be creative and explore their likes and dislikes.
The team discovered that as the sessions went on, service users grew more confident and increasingly imaginative, which in turn improved communication as they talked about their art creations.
Yasmin added: “We have had very positive feedback from service users, parents and carers, saying how much they enjoy the group and look forward to it. They like making new friends and it makes them think and everyone comes out with a big smile on their faces.”