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Does he NEED art and literature?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

My son turns 5 in April. He's really bright, possibly gifted, and also has Asperger's as well as other neurological issues.


He reads really well (several grade levels ahead) He does math really well for his age. He knows a ton about science. 


But he hates art and literature (prefers to read scientific based books) 


Is there a reason I am not thinking of that I should be pushing this kind of thing on him? With his Asperger's, this is never really going to be his "thing" you know? He is a very concrete thinker and that's just how it is. As of now,  I offer him art, make sure we read at least a few stories a week (vs the scientific book on dinosaurs and sharks that he prefers) and I call it good. I do more of this kind of thing with his little sister and he is welcome to join us, but he does not want to have anything to do with it. 


Am I denying him some sort of developmental growth, or just letting him be who he is? I mean not everyone is an artist or a poet, but I've always felt like that kind of exposure was good for you. 

post #2 of 21

Interesting question. He's only four, so he may get more interested later on... My son (also gifted, quirky, very science-focussed and logical) was interested was only interested in non-fiction until he was six, when he discovered sci-f and fantasy novels. Now at almost eight, he loves fiction. I really didn't think this would ever happen, and while I basically thought it was fine if he never liked reading novels, as an avid reader myself, I couldn't help feeling like he was missing out. I always read him whatever he wanted (mostly chemistry and physics books) but would keep throwing some fiction into the pile of possibilities. If he didn't choose it, no big deal.


For art, I have tried to broaden the range of options. My guy has big ideas and not-so-great fine motor skills, and is also a perfectionist-- so art has never been all that appealing to him. Too much frustration. Photography and pottery are fun for him-- much more enjoyable than drawing or colouring-- as is wood carving. We hung around a few art galleries and he liked the idea of abstract art-- basically, the art they had done in kindergarten was all representative (eg.draw a self-portrait) and his never looked the way he wanted it to. He latched on to the idea of abstract art and also brought his more math-y side into it, getting interested in persepctive and covering sheets of paper with pyramids and 3-D cubes etc. He also loves computers, so digital art has some appeal for him.


I haven't really pushed either art or literature, but because I enjoy both, he's been exposed to them and has gradually become more interested. Still, he is a very science/tech/engineering focussed kid and I suspect his primary interests will always be in those areas. Besides, even if I was inclined to push, for my son, any pushing would only have the effect of making him dig his heels in and resist! He likes to follow his own interests and he can very quickly sniff out any sneaky attempts to oppose my own agenda :)

Edited by Cassidy68 - 2/6/12 at 12:10pm
post #3 of 21

I'm of the opinion that sometimes it doesn't hurt to put extra effort into the areas that are "lacking" - to compensate and promote well-rounded development. Not that he "needs" art and literature, but it's more fun that he shouldn't miss. And "Art" does not have to be just drawing - maybe at some point in the future you could get him interested in origami (making your own robots, from 2D to 3D), fractal art, lego sculptures, etc? As PP mentioned, there is a lot of art that has a math element to it. 

post #4 of 21

I would keep exposing him to it, but I wouldn't push too hard.  That is a sure way to get him to hate it.  However, DOING art and APPRECIATING art are two different things.  As he gets older, if he is still resistent, introduce it as part of history.  Also, I saw some cool prints made from peoples DNA.  See how much science you can connect to the art.  Spirograph can be fun and is more math than art, string art connects the two subjects.  Purposeful art might connect with him more too.



post #5 of 21

Stephenie, I had another thought.... One reason for keeping up with the stories, if your son is open to it, is that fiction is fabulous for developing understanding of social dynamics, interpersonal relationships, understanding that people have different points of view and have reasons for how they act and the choices they make etc etc. My son and I have had many great conversations about characters in books and I do think that reading fiction is a good way to develop empathy and understanding of others, since it allows you to see the world through the eyes of a fictional character. I still wouldn't push it.... but I would pull out a really good book every so often and give it a try.


Also, thinking over my earlier post, I realized that my son wasn't interested in fiction until we got into stories that are a bit more complex and a bit more exciting...  that is, novels aimed at much older kids. My son reads very well, but when it comes to fiction, I still read to him.

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone. 

Part of art could be his delayed motor skills. I try lots of mediums and he is just not into it unless it is messy and then it isn't the art, but splashing paint ect that he likes. 

I think we'll keep trying here and there, but the poster who said that if I push him too hard he will end up really hating it all has it right. The more I try, the less he wants to be involved with it. It's good that his sister is just a few years younger (and loves storybooks and art) because it ensures that he still has access and exposure to this stuff even if it's not really his thing. 

post #7 of 21

I agree with not pushing him.  Simply having the right materials around might be enough to encourage him to one day play around with it.  For years, my oldest daughter had me reading shark and whale books ad nauseum (sp?), peppered with some fiction here and there.  She's a really good listener, too, so I kept trying (and failing) to introduce other stories to her.  I didn't push either, simply asked her, though I'm sure that sometimes my frustration with not being able to move past these was visible.  I did love learning and reading about sharks and whales, I just wanted..... more.  Then along came dinosaurs, which I introduced because I knew she loved predators with teeth.  (When I say "Introduced" I mean I borrowed the books from the library and showed them to her along with the other books in the pile.)  Soon we were reading tons about dinosaurs.  Then I got brave and introduced dragons.  I found a copy of The Hobbit with Tolkein's picture of Smaug lying on his treasure and she was hooked.  We read the How to Train Your Dragon series through 5 books, then she was onto monsters.  For that I found loads of Greek mythology books.  I finally introduced her to Harry Potter-- the basilisk and the dementors being strong motivators-- and now she is doing magic all over the house.  She even loves Marcia William's Shakespeare versions--especially the ghost stories.  So, it took a while, but we are finally are reading fiction!  (Jim Arnosky is a fabulous writer and illustrator, whose books for children span the divide between science and fiction.)


As for art, one way you can tie it in is to approach it in light of science, through field notebooks.  A pencil box filled with plain and colored pencils, a small, stiff-backed sketch book, a magnifying glass, binoculars and some measuring tools all stuffed into a backpack and taken on a hike are a great way to practice this.  Sometimes art can be too open ended!  Even in art class, sometimes it can be easier if you have some limits on the materials you can use, what there is to represent. Then with kids, you give them paper and some paint and the art really *is* just playing with the materials.  This can be a good thing, within reason (like paint staying in the general vicinity of the paper!)  I remember as a kid being so frustrated with watercolors, in part because I never really let myself explore the characteristics of the medium.  I wanted it to be accurate as a pencil right off the bat.  I'm sure some performance/interpretive artists would beam with pride at their son wallowing in paint!


So, while of course you want to continue to expose him to those things he seems to be missing, to give him opportunities to discover them and try them out, it is not the end of the world for him to not be on board, especially when there is so much resistance that could potentially derail so many other good things.  Eventually, he will get exposed.  Certain phrases are part of our lives, and often those phrases come directly out of literature.  Science books are filled with photographs and drawings that are art in themselves.   We just read a great picture book "For the Birds: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson" by Peggy Thomas.  (Peterson is the father of the modern field guide.)  What I liked about this story the most was how he followed his own heart.  He wasn't homeschooled, but this was still an inspiring story for this homeschooling mama--how he saved for a year to buy his first camera, etc.  He was a great artist and a great naturalist.


You see, everything is so intricately tied in together that if you can notice it, and ask those questions, they can lead you to exploring those missing elements without even realizing it.  (How *do* they take those pictures underwater? you could ask.)  Commenting on a painting of a bird in a science book-- wow, I like that picture!-- is art appreciation.  I liked the previous suggestion of a camera.  I have a notebook where I document all the wild plants on our property, complete with my photographs.  My 7yo is forever borrowing the camera, and some of those pictures are really fabulous (and thank heavens for digital and a 4GB memory card!)  The ideas are endless, and they don't need to be pushed.

post #8 of 21

I think he's way too young for you to have to concern yourself about either art or literature. He sounds like a curious and active child who's already learning a lot about the world, and I'd just try to give him all the encouragement and support he'd like for those things. Most of all, at his age, I'd support lots of goalless play of his own choosing. There's lots and lots of time in the years to come when he can be exposed to art and literature in ways that are compatible with his temperament and interests - and he may never become particularly interested in either of those subjects, but he can eventually develop at least a pleasant passing familiarity with them and do just fine in life with his other interests - and then he can decide whether he's drawn to pursue them more. I'm an artist, so of course I see the value in art, and many of my son's favorite childhood memories are the hours I spent reading to him (when he was much older than your child) - but I don't feel those things are necessary for a child, as long as they're abundantly available as some of life's pleasures. My son didn't do anything at all with art until he got an interest in his mid teens and majored in it for a semester at college to really explore it. He did very well, but wasn't drawn any further, and that's fine - he has lots of other interests. I think the idea of being "well balanced" is unfortunately overemphasized in our culture.   - Lillian

post #9 of 21

I do think exposure to quality age appropriate literature is very important, for developmental reasons. Although my oldest is reading, we make literature a reading aloud period. Have you tried implementing a story time before bed? I would make this a read aloud only time, where he is free to listen. We're Waldorf-inspired and include plenty of nature stories in our read-aloud time. Would your DS be interested in Native American stories? This could be a good way to blend both.


Another thing I've learned is that a child who loves learning facts may need to be brought out of his head a bit, to awaken his imagination. Read-alouds are a great way to do this. 


post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 

I think at some point photography may be good. He had one of the "kid tough" digital cameras. He loved it, but apparently, it was not "tough" enough because he broke it. I am actually a professional photographer, so I would love to do that with him when he is bigger. His father is an artist as well, so I am sure that is why it's hard for me to accept my child not loving art. 


We did try reading one of the Magic Treehouse books together recently (took turns reading pages) and since it was full of facts, he looked past the fantasy pretty well. I think I will pick up another from the series when we next go to the library. 


I don't think that Native American stories would sit well with him. They tend to be pretty symbolic and he is really literal. I could just see him telling me "That's impossible!" every few minutes lol. 


I talked with his BCBA (ABA therapist) a bit about his frustrations with art, and we're going to work some crafts into his therapy sessions so he can be reminded that it's okay to make mistakes (part of what he hates about art) and that not everyone has to do everything exactly the same way (another big issue he has with it) She's going to start with some dinosaur crafts because he really, really loves dinosaurs.


I think the idea of a nature journal may be good for him eventually. He loves nature, but I can't see him stopping to draw anything he sees right now. 


I am feeling better about it all, he is so young and not everyone is an artist. Even when both their parents are ;) 

post #11 of 21

I forgot to mention that my son became a voracious reader as soon as he started reading literature on his own at age 12, and still is today in his adult years. He had attended Waldorf kindergarten for two years, and they really discouraged reading books to the children - they told a lot of fairy tales at school and encouraged us to tell stores at home but not get into books yet. I went along with things then that I wouldn't to along with now, but I don't think there was any harm done in leaving him to play and just use his imagination in those years. There were a lot of things I didn't like about that school, but I do value that magical time of free imagination. Later, he became a more avid reader than any of his friends, and his imagination has always been vivid and important to him. When someone experiences literature at some point that stirs his heart, that's a very powerful force, but it just may not come early for a lot of people.


As for art - as an artist, I feel very strongly that the most important thing is seeing and enjoying the beauty all around is in even the tiniest things - the way two colors meet in a meadow, the way a beautiful lace curtain frames a window, the miraculous scene inside a dew drop, the beautiful world inside a flower's throat - we develop our own sense of art from that, and a parent can casually mention things she notices on a daily basis. And we can see appreciate what other artists are seeing and doing by having that strong sense of our own. Then, when a child comes into an age where he can feel good about something he can make, he has a lot to work with - but, again, it just might never be an interest, and there may be other things that express his artistic side just as well as physically making things we think of as "art."    - Lillian

post #12 of 21
My DS sounds a bit similar to yours...very into science. He is pretty specific about the art he likes to do. He usually does NOT like to color or draw too much - seems too much "work" for him. Instead he likes to paint, assemble wood structures with my help, cut and paste paper. The book Scribble Art by Mary Ann Kohl is helpful for giving you ideas.
We are doing Sonlight, which involves a lot of reading. At first he was all into the scientific reading mostly. But some of the books are silly and/or funny, such as My Father's Dragon, and Capyboppy. He loves silly stuff. Maybe you could try and look for some of those kinds of books to read with him. Look at the Sonlight book lists on their website to give you some ideas of possibly interesting books.
post #13 of 21

The only thing I have to add to the other posts is to remember that are isn't just drawing and painting.  It's also music, drama, woodworking, sewing, cooking, mosaics, drafting, stained glass, quilting, writing, engineering, gardening, sculpture, singing, photography, computer art, etch-a-sketch, string art, Spiralgraph, animation, comics, Legos.  Art is in everything.

post #14 of 21

I too love some of Sonlight's suggestions for lit. I want to add to what Lillian said about Waldorf and books in early childhood. While in a school setting the stories are ideally told rather than read from a book, I found that very difficult in a home setting, and instead choose to mostly read aloud to my boys for the sake of mama's sanity :) but the idea of using stories to help meet the child developmentally resonates with me so I wanted to share it. 


When my oldest was 5 he would pick out only the eyewitness science facts books from the library, so I found reading age appropriate fairy tales a great way to help bring him more into his imagination and out of his head a bit, for example. Now, in second grade, I'm meeting this stage of games and tricks with trickster tales of outwitting and creatively plotting. Next year we'll cover old testament stories to meet the needs of the 9yr change. 



post #15 of 21
Exposure to literature can just be great bedtime reading. You know, that fifteen or twenty minutes a night that you or your partner read to him anyway. Exposure to art can be the monthly trip to the art museums in your area. No need to push, just see if you can pique his interest.
post #16 of 21

I haven't read all of the responses, so please forgive if I'm being repetitive.


It's important to remember that your son is just four.  It is completely developmentally appropriate for him not to be willing to sit for a story or to have the patience to deal with art activities that require fine motor skills.  I would take great care not to push him into activities that cause him frustration and resentment because he will come to associate those with those particular subjects, which will have the opposite effect than what you desire.  I think when children show acceleration in some areas, it's a natural reaction for parents to then expect that in all areas, and want to push.  It is GREAT that he is willing to pore over non-fiction.  Remember that many kids his age are not ready to sit with books at all.  There is time for him to develop those interests.


That said, I do think those are important subjects, and there are things that you can do to encourage his interest in them without him knowing that that is your objective.  Some ideas:

1) Get out something for him to play with - legos, lincoln logs, tinker toys, etc.  While he plays, read aloud (as though to yourself or to the other children) from a novel that you think might interest him.  He will play, and seem not to pay attention, but I think you'll find that he's absorbing more of the novel than you might think.

2) Get some audio books for the car.  He's there and he's buckled in, and there's nothing much to do.  A book might be entertaining in those circumstances.

3) Kinesthetic paint splashing is 100% appropriate to the development of an interest and appreciation in art.  Focus on art more in that way.  Pour some paint into a shoebox full of macaroni or rice, and let him use his hands to distribute the paint.  Use powdered tempera on a table with a squirt of shaving cream, and allow him to paint the table with his hands - this has the added benefit of cleaning the table, believe it or not.  Spread some butcher paper in the yard, and rubber band car washing sponges to his feet.  Let him step in pans of paint and make trails on the paper.  Use cars to trail through the paint and make tracks on the paper.  Provide an appliance sized cardboard box, and a painters tray full of watered down glue.  Allow him to dip paper into the glue water, and apply to the house, let it dry, then cut a hole in it for a door.  Clubhouse!  Scupt with playdough, or homemade dough.  In short, make sure the art that you're planning is primarily about FEELING the materials.  At that age, it's less about the product and more about the process.


post #17 of 21

Originally Posted by Stephenie View Post


We did try reading one of the Magic Treehouse books together recently (took turns reading pages) and since it was full of facts, he looked past the fantasy pretty well. I think I will pick up another from the series when we next go to the library. 


I don't think that Native American stories would sit well with him. They tend to be pretty symbolic and he is really literal. I could just see him telling me "That's impossible!" every few minutes lol. 


You might try something not based at all in fantasy.  DD loved the Little House on the Prairie series around that age.  They are all true stories that contain a good deal of modeling on social-emotional behavior, but also contain a wealth of factual information about food sourcing, history, nature, etc.  The Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy stand out in particular in that regard.

post #18 of 21
chenchen has some good ideas, particularly #1 and 2. But on #3, if he has any tactile sensory defensiveness it's probably best NOT to have him feel the materials. If he's tactile sensory seeking, then it's a great idea.

The idea of reading to your child while he's doing Legos, etc works for us. But I'd still keep it to something you think he might find interesting.
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 

Out of the blue today he asked to make Valentine cards! I was pretty shocked, but I quickly got out the paper, crayons, scissors and glitter glue before he could change his mind. He stayed interested for a good 20 minutes. 


We try where we can to work art into his life. We take him to events at the local art museum - they open up early three or four times a year just for kids on the autism spectrum. It's a really neat program. Not all of it works for him, once there was a lot of music (live music terrifies him) but he's really enjoyed that. In general, I try to work quiet music into our home life as much as we can to try to desensitize him. He likes it when it is very quiet and on a radio etc. Live singing, instruments or especially clapping really, really upset him, so we have to be careful with music exposure. He refuses to sing sings as a group, IE at Sunday School or even just with his sister and me... but he and his sister have created this little song that they sing back and forth to one another (so cute!) I don't really push it. Some people just don't want to sing in a group. 


He likes to make a mess with a paintbrush, but his hands can't get dirty. Sensory defensiveness and all. But I think he may like some of the suggested activities. I could see him enjoying making tracks with the paint... maybe instead of cars he could dip dinosaurs in the paint and make dino tracks. I bet he would really like that. 




I will have to try reading while he's playing with his trios and see how that goes. Thanks everyone for their book suggestions.

post #20 of 21

yes even more since he's aspie.  start small, make it fun as possible, tie it in to his interests. 

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