At the Ottawa Area Center, art has become a very important component to our classroom schedule. Therefore, we have formed an Art Committee to explore various types of art and techniques. One way that we have been able to bring art into our school and the classroom is through Zot Artz.
Zot Artz was created by Dwayne and Marianne Szot to be used by individuals of any age and any ability. Dwayne invented small one-of-a-kind art tools to be used to create various art such as pogo paint stick, a roller attachment to wheelchairs for paint or chalk and strapped hand held rollers.
"Art tools are designed so participants with limited movement or lack of fine motor skills can be successful creating, painting, drawing, printing and more." Zot Artz
We have found that enhancing art at OAC and using Zot art equipment has improves mobility skills, helps students express themselves, encourages student cooperation in working together and allows our students with disabilities the freedom to create art more independently.
Some of the events that have evolved through this committee have been Special Art Days which involve creating murals for prom or different seasons involving our wheelchair students. Fall and Spring Art Days have various activities and craft projects for all students.
Festival of the Arts
On the first Friday of May, the Ottawa Area Center hosts a "Festival Of The Arts". This is a special day that celebrates the arts. Each year a new theme is selected. Various artists are invited to perform for students and visitors. There are also several crafts and activites for the students that revolve around the annual theme. It is an exciting day filled with fun and activities. Every year students from local schools are invited to attend and assist our students throughout the day.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding
The Ottawa Area Center currently provides students who are medically permitted the opportunity to participate in a year round horseback riding program. We house within our school a mechanical horse which we can utilize every day regardless of the outside weather.
Though our program is considered a recreational riding program, it does offer a wide variety of therapeutic benefits naturally through the exposure and movement of the horse. The M.O.V.E. (Mobility Opportunities Via Education) concepts that are practiced inside the classroom are often incorporated within our riding program providing a unique opportunity. M.O.V.E. on horseback is very beneficial in a natural and effortless way for the rider. (M.O.V.E. stands for Mobility Opportunity Via Education and emphasizes sit, stand, and walking skills in the midst of activities in the classroom and at home.)
The benefits of horseback riding are as numerous as the types of disabilities and conditions served. Research shows that students who participate in horseback riding programs can experience physical, mental and emotional rewards. Flexibility, balance and muscle strength show improvement. The relationship between the horse and rider can increase confidence, patience and self-esteem. The sense of independence found on the horse's back benefits all who ride.
Even though riding is exercise, it is perceived as enjoyment; therefore the rider has increased tolerance and motivation to lengthen the period of exercise. Simply sitting on a horse requires stretching of the adductor muscles of the thighs. Gravity helps to stretch the muscles in front of the leg as the rider sits on horse without stirrups. Riding with stirrups helps to stretch the heel cords and calf muscles. Stomach and back muscles are stretched while the rider is encouraged to maintain an upright position against the movement of the horse. When the shoulder girdles is stabilized students find greater head and neck control.
For some, riding can be frightening. However the rider learns to overcome these fears through the act of staying on the horse, as well as attempting new skills on the horse.
Our equine facilitated activities incorporate the experience of interaction between the horse and rider in an environment of exercise, learning, and self discovery. As a classroom group exercise, the student learns to practice control by taking turns, waiting, and safely following directions.