Colouring Outside the Lines

Posted on: January 12th, 2016 by SAAAC No Comments

One of the earliest students to enroll in SAAAC’s visual arts program in 2015 was Manu. Like most eight year olds, Manu was full of energy and his attention was captured by almost everything around him.

child with autism in art class

The early stages of Manu’s artistic development were somewhat challenging. He was not a fan of staying in one place for long periods of time. Even though Manu liked drawing and painting, he frequently dashed away from his lessons. Instead of forcing him back to the table each time, our art team incorporated some behaviour strategies and included these departures into the lesson plan. We encouraged Manu to ask for breaks instead of escaping and we built  break times into his session. By using this strategy, we were all able to have more constructive sessions…our first victory!

Our next goal with Manu was to teach him how to hold his brush and control the paint. We completed many colouring exercises and practiced staying inside the lines. As we continued these exercises, we noticed Manu was more interested in the mixing of the paints then the application of it. This observation encouraged us to change our approach. We wanted to focus more on Manu’s strengths and encourage his interests, so for next few months we let Manu do what he loved to do most in art class,  mix colours.

Mixing colours is an important part of painting and can be challenging. You need to know what colours to mix in order to get the colours you want. So first, we taught Manu the primary colours, encouraging him to verbally say the colours out loud in order to build his communication skills and requested him to point to them. Secondly, we showed him what colours to mix in order to get the colours needed for a specific picture.Over the course of a few months, Manu began grasping the concept of mixing colour and began applying it to various paintings.


Watching Manu develop as an artist reinforces my belief that art is crucial in the lives of children with special needs. Art is an alternative mode of expression that helps individuals connect to the world in their own unique way. Our team is excited to see how Manu will grow as an artist and how his unique vision will be illustrated on canvas.

Amir Akbari from Behind the Lines