Art Therapy for Special Needs

treehouse illustration

Treehouse Illustration by Jennifer Allison

I have Sensory Processing Disorder and the struggle is very real. As a child I was in constant battle with the world around me…as well as my parents and teachers. I’d often retreat to the woods behind my house where I built a tree fort to escape the chaos and drama and seek much-needed solitude. That was where I found peace, and I spent hours talking to the various insects and birds that accepted me and my quirky, special need for quiet time.

As an adult, I’ve learned that throwing myself on the floor while kicking and screaming isn’t a socially acceptable way to deal with the overwhelming sensory input that my brain fails to process properly. But the disorder continues to wreak havoc in my everyday life. For example, in order to survive the corporate cubicle world where I work, I have to wear noise-canceling headphones all day long, but this isn’t ideal for inspiring creativity or productivity.

I no longer have a treehouse or secret fort deep in the woods that I can retreat to as an adult. Unfortunately. However, there IS one thing I’ve found that truly calms my stress and melts away the chaos and discomfort of my hyper-sensitive sensory system. That one thing is drawing. 

The Making of a Jedi

Today I decided to give ballpoint pens a try. First, I sketched out a rough pencil drawing of my favorite Star Wars character, Yoda. Slowly and gently layers of color were scribbled upon each other to make texture, shadows and darker tones.

Sketch of Yoda

I had a lot of fun working on this but it took quite a bit of patience to fill in the larger areas. Overall, this took me about 15 hours to complete.

Yoda Illustration

Prints of this drawing and more are available on my gallery at jennifer-allison.fineartamerica.com.

Overcoming Adversaries

I have faced numerous adversaries in my life.  They include childhood bullies and even truly evil people who assaulted me in various ways, including sexual abuse, rape, stalking and harassment. As a result, I spent many years feeling like the world was out to get me. I didn’t trust anybody. I constantly looked over my shoulder for the next bad guy and always assumed the worst. I was overcome by fear…even paralyzed at times to go anywhere new.

However, after receiving counseling, participating in support groups, and diving into the Bible, I eventually learned how to turn my negative experiences into positive life lessons. I surrendered my life, burdens and fears over to God, and He led me on an amazing journey of recovery and healing, and even turned my experiences around for good. Now I’m not paranoid anymore, but I’m prepared. I’m not crippled with fear, but I’m wise. He restored my confidence in myself and other people. He has even used me to encourage others who are hurting, which has been a truly awesome blessing. Take THAT all you evil monsters!!!

I drew this picture as I was thinking about all this. It’s a self-portrait of me as Little Red Riding Hood, but not the naive little girl who nonchalantly wanders into dangerous places. It’s the girl who is aware and ready, and brave enough to venture into the unknown, despite her emotions.

Bicycle_watermarked

Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

 

My drawings on www.jenniferleighallison.com and other social networks are ©Copyright Jennifer Allison. They shall not be used for any reason without prior written permission.

Surviving Sensory Overload

The hardest part about having Sensory Processing Disorder is never knowing when sensory overload might occur.  There are certain environments I know will create anxiety and stress for me, and I avoid them as much as I can. But there are other times when a whirlwind of sensory input might assault me suddenly and without warning. The result is a seemingly random meltdown (at least to innocent bystanders, or to my mother who usually gets frantic text messages from me).

When I get overwhelmed, my brain immediately goes into survival mode. If I have no control over the bombarding stimuli, then my heart races at full panic mode until I’m able to escape. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself that there’s no real threat, or that the sounds wouldn’t bother a “normal” person. It still hurts. I guess my brain has a mind of its own.

I recently discovered that if I get involved in a project, like drawing or painting,  I can cope with a LOT more sensory input than usual. My focus is so intense when I draw that the world just melts away…along with my anxiety, doubt and pain. 

Flexing My Right Brain

Growing up I spent a lot of time drawing and painting. I dreamed of being a cartoonist one day. However, I was hired right out of art school to do web design and I’ve been on the computer ever since (over 20 years now). And while I enjoy that type of work too, I have really missed the feeling of a pencil in my fingers and the ability to let my mind wander on creating something whimsical. So, I got out some paper last night and decided to get my right brain in gear again.

First, I searched for a photo I could use for inspiration and I found this:

oak tree

As soon as I saw this tree I wanted to climb it…or even LIVE in it. Its long, flowing branches look just like strong arms welcoming me in for a big hug. I LOVE it. So, I set out to draw this tree and this is what happened:

Treehouse

I wouldn’t call it photorealistic (ha!) but it was still fun. I need to invest in some nicer markers and paper now, then hopefully you’ll start to see some more drawings from me.

My drawings that are posted on www.jenniferleighallison.com and my social networks are ©Copyright Jennifer Allison. They shall not be used for any reason without prior written permission.