© Piros Orr

Artistic Tools


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In our experience through ClowNexus, people with dementia and autistic children can both enjoy art because it engages their senses, lets them express themselves without words, gives them a sense of structure and freedom, and helps them remember and share emotions. Art is a way for us all to connect and communicate.

Intention: Stimulate the senses and promote connection through sensory engagement. 

The materials provided in this activity are designed to be touched, smelled, and listened to. Items such as a bag of leaves invite physical activity and exploration.  

They can be squeezed for a calming effect or used to create musical sounds, promoting a collaborative experience between the child and the clown.  

The various scents in jars can trigger the imagination and memories. By observing which senses a specific material excites the child’s most, the clown can sensitively support their interaction and shared play.  

The clown(s) may mirror the child’s use of materials and gradually introduce more play elements if the child is open to changes. Respect for the child’s timing is vital, as they may prefer repetitive play.  

For children with ASD, play often follows a formulaic and repetitive pattern, often focusing more on materials than on individuals.

Intention: Elicit sensory responses while incorporating learning and play. 

Clowns use seasonally appropriate natural elements (e.g., leaves, pinecones, chestnuts) to engage children’s senses and teach them about the changing seasons.  

This hands-on approach stimulates sensory exploration and offers an imaginative dimension to learning.  

Activities may involve planting seeds in spring, creating artificial snow in winter, or introducing other relevant objects to enhance the learning experience. 

This activity is closely tied to exploring the changing seasons and harnessing natural elements with a touch of imagination.

Intention: Propose familiar activities that foster unity. 

The clowns embody various animals, encouraging participants to use their bodies and join in the role-play.  

This activity trains children to recognise the animals represented, promotes physical activity, and facilitates emotional expression in a fun and appropriate manner.

Intention: Respond to the child’s invitation for physical contact, enhancing body awareness and self-awareness through various movements and games. 

Clowns accept requested hugs, lifts, or touches and transform them into playful games. 

For example, a lift may become an airplane ride, an arm or leg can serve as a road for toy cars or animals, and a hug can lead to a dance. Props, such as a Pilates ball or an elastic band, can be integrated.  

It is crucial to adapt the intensity of physical contact based on the child’s sensitivity to touch, whether they are hypersensitive or hyposensitive. Context & Pre-condition: This activity requires self-awareness and interpersonal perception. Clarity in communication and understanding the child’s needs is essential.

Intention: Connect and play using familiar props, imbuing them with new meaning and purpose. This activity allows children to be passive observers or active participants. 

Explore the sensation of wind using songs, sounds, and props that simulate wind (e.g., fans, fabric, ventilators). Engage in activities like flying in the wind (using leaves, fabric, feathers), imitating the wind (with gymnastic ribbons), and transform it into a participatory performance. 

Two potential settings: 1. Children sitting in a semicircle, awaiting the activity to commence. 2. Invading their space during an ongoing activity to capture their attention. The goal is to engage them in the activity offered.

Intention:  Try to break the strict routines that limit the child’s play.  

The clowns commence by immersing themselves in the child’s ongoing game or pattern. Gradually, they introduce new ways of playing with toys and objects, inviting the child to partake in this fresh approach. They explore the full spectrum of sensory experiences with the toys.  

If the child remains steadfast in their routine (often a source of comfort and security), the clowns attempt to surprise them with a unique and intriguing toy, such as playdough, sand, a spray bottle, or a large piece of fabric. 

Acknowledge that patterns and routines are important for children as they provide a sense of self-regulation and security. Be open, accepting, patient, persistent, and consistent.

Intention: Connecting with the child through rhythm.  

By reacting to the sounds and rhythm of the music, the child responds either vocally or through movement, transforming the encounter into a conversation/jam session.  

This encounter acts as an example of communication and exchange without words.  

By listening to the rhythm, the child can respond by walking, playing, moving, and vocalising.  

There is also the option to incorporate instruments and invite the child to play with the instrument or join in as they prefer.

Intention: connecting to nature, sensory stimulation 

We enter with a big, colourful umbrella. 

Our initial connection involves drawing attention to this colourful object, activating interest, and initiating the topic of rain. 

To build our play, we start by creating the soothing sounds of nature, including the gentle rustle of the wind and the patter of raindrops. 

We incorporate soft rhythm instruments to enhance the experience. 

Gradually, we open the spacious umbrella and extend an invitation to the audience to come underneath it. 

Beneath the unbrella, we listen to the sounds of the rain, creating them by gently tapping our fingers on the umbrella’s surface. 

Based on the reactions we observe, the clowns respond with emotions and impulses that resonate with the audience’s engagement, fostering a shared and immersive experience.

This activity is best suited for individual or very small group interactions.  

The sound of the rain awakens an emotional memory, which can be a very intimate and sensitive action. 

We remain acutely sensitive and aware of the reactions this evokes, ensuring that our play maintains a soft and intimate quality, preserving the emotional connection with the audience.

Intention: connecting, refreshing the atmosphere. 

Music serves as the foundation, and dancing acts as a tool for exploring various levels of synchronised movement. 

We provide the impulse and extend invitations through both tactile and non-tactile movement. 

We offer suggestions for discovering the joy of dancing by exclusively involving specific body parts. 

Our focus lies in attending to sensory impulses through touch, engaging with the airflow generated by our movements, and creating opportunities for observation and enjoyment while watching others dance. 

Everyone observing is encouraged to join in the collective joy.

A careful and considerate approach is essential when dealing with sensory impulses and physical touch. 

Each interaction is presented as a suggestion, always respecting the individual’s need for acceptance. 

Participation in the physical activity is open to all residents, allowing everyone to join freely. 

Those who prefer to observe rather than actively participate also contribute to the joyful atmosphere, fostering a sense of inclusivity and shared delight.

Intention: Sensory impulse, playing with touch 

We extend an invitation to touch the bag, encouraging individuals to listen to the sound it produces, feel its texture, and savour the woody scent it emanates. 

We gently touch the child with the bag, allowing them to manipulate and engage in play with it. 

We take a deliberate, step-by-step approach to enable the bag to evolve into an object of curiosity.

Intention: Connecting to the child’s world finding a common point. 

The clowns carefully observe and gradually initiate a similar movement using one specific body part. 

They craft a playful game around this movement and redirect the audience’s attention elsewhere. 

Mirroring is a delicate activity that can foster a sense of security, but it also requires  considerable time and a mindful approach. 

It’s important to be patient and attuned to the child’s cues. Once the child senses your genuine intention without any ulterior motives, you can slowly begin the mirroring process.

Intention: Flipping the focus from disability to abilities and special powers. 

This tool serves as an approach that is adaptable for use in playful, educational, or even challenging settings. 

The nature of the interaction will yield varying levels of energy, but one thing is certain – it invokes a sense of awe! 

Witnessing someone with superpowers naturally elicits amazement and encourages compliments, making it an empowering experience. 

The power in question should be authentic and genuine. It’s not about pretending to have the ability to see superpowers, but rather about truly “seeing” the person who is part of the encounter.