Art Therapy in Special Needs Education: A Case of Autism in New Horizon Special School in Accra

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Inclusive Education (IE) has become very necessary in education today, and the increasing prevalence of cases such as autism and the fear of autistic individuals missing out on quality education to assist them attain their full potential as they get integrated into society cannot be denied. Unfortunately, the Special Educational Needs Policy of Ghana does not include a curriculum for teaching autistic children. Autism schools and teachers in Ghana are compelled to use curriculums that may not suit the needs and learning styles of autistic learners or adopt curriculums of other jurisdictions. This study investigated how autism teachers teach and autistic learners imbibe instructions, and the therapies used at the New Horizon Special School at Cantonments in Accra, Ghana. The study also explored the world and characteristics of autistic learners and how they function, and how the inclusion of Art Therapy as an intervention may be helpful in teaching autistic learners at the New Horizon Special School, as studies have proved its efficacy in this regard. The research being qualitative was quasi￾experimental and descriptive in nature, and adopted observation and interview as data collection instruments. These helped to identify and describe the characteristics of autistic learners at the school, the instructional strategies and existing therapies employed in the school, and their influences or impact on the education of Numeracy and Literacy. It also facilitated the description of Art therapy sessions, processes and outcomes on the behaviour and coping skills of autistic pupils were also described. Purposive, cluster and simple random sampling techniques were adopted for the study; sampling 21 participants comprising 9 autistic pupils each in the senior and junior autism classes, 2 autism teachers and 1 sensory coach. The study identified art therapy as a worthy inclusion in the education of autistic individuals. Therefore, a series of art therapy sessions were conducted for autistic learners in groups and individually during which their behavioural differences were observed. The art of the autistic learners was interpreted for the development of an art therapy inclusive teaching model for autistic individuals. The model was pre-tested and was found to enhance the communication and personality of the autistic learners while improving classroom management. Typically, aggressive and hyperactive pupils had better control of their emotions through art therapy in Numeracy and Literacy education. Therefore, Art therapy was proposed as a worthy intervention in the education of autistic learners at New Horizon Special School
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY IN ART EDUCATION