Art Therapy, a Computer, and Two Exceptional Children

Diane Ranger
Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Concordia University, 1996

This research explores the use of computers as artistic tools and extensions of the body in Art Therapy with multi-handicapped children. The objective is to develop the foundation for a methodology using adapted computers in Art Therapy. Two case studies, with an eleven and a twelve year old paraplegic girls, conducted over a period of fourteen weeks, are used to document this research.

To begin, a basic literature review presents the physical and psychological characteristics of cerebral palsy, which constitute risk factors in the development of psychological problems specific to the handicapped child. Then, a presentation of the physical environment and the materials available to me for the conduct of the case studies is followed by a description of each client's background and of the details of each session. These sessions are analysed based on drawings produced. Finally, I elaborate on the possibilities and limitations of the new technologies relatively to their use in Art Therapy.

This research shows that computers can be effective tools and extensions of the body in Art Therapy. The art therapist can read from drawings made from computers emotional transfers related to the child's problems.


Possibilities of Computer in Art Therapy with Multi-Handicaped People

Diane Ranger, May 1995

A few years ago, it would have been inconceivable to use computers as therapeutic tools in Art Therapy. The recent explosive developments in fields related to computers have resulted in the emergence of highly compact, convivial and adapted systems. These systems have allowed, among others, multi-handicapped people to make art works without being limited by their handicaps, without using conventional art media. Researches, such as Francine Béland's (Béland, 1994) from "Université du Québec à Hull", have demonstrated that it is quite possible to transfer and express feelings through computer art works.

The main starting objective of this study was to conduct art therapy sessions with multi-handicapped people using a computer. To do so, one must first inventory the various systems: computers, software and peripherals adapted to a multi-handicapped population. Then, there was the task to try to acquire an adequate system for the potential population of Maimonides hospital, where I was conducting my practicum.

The hospital provided me with a system and a room which were not adequate to conduct art therapy sessions. Right from my first experiences with my two clients, I realized all the importance associated with the physical setting, the furniture, the adapted materials and the institutional support in the successful realization of the therapy. Therefore, this study describes the reasons for which I could not conduct case studies at this stage of my research. I wish to continue this research by conducting case studies with multi-handicapped people but, in light of my experience, this continuation will be conditional to the access to the adequate materials and environment necessary to the success of such an enterprise.

Return to the home page of " Diane Ranger"