Crayons and paper can amount to a lot more than a simple pastime.
Nadia D’Lima uses art therapy to help autistic children break out of their isolation and form relationships with others.
“Many high-functioning children with autism are good academically and do quite well in school,” explains D’Lima. “Where they experience difficulty is in initiating conversations and making friends.”
As a volunteer, D’Lima began running art workshops at Toronto’s Geneva Centre for Autism five years ago and eventually was hired on a contractual basis. She started working with a drama therapist to encourage children to visualize their emotions and draw them.
“It’s interesting how they depict anger on a piece of paper,” says D’Lima.
Art therapy is an increasingly common form of psychotherapy that can help individuals and families deal with change. UNICEF uses art therapy to help children cope with post-traumatic stress after civil war, for example.
Working with autistic children made D’Lima, a graphic arts graduate, realize just how much she enjoyed the helping profession. She decided to return to school and study social work. D’Lima found her ideal program at Centennial College.
“I really like the hands-on approach,” she says of the college’s Social Service Worker program. “I’m taking a field placement right now with the Alternative Youth Centre for Employment, working as an employment counsellor.”
The two-year program imparts the knowledge and skills needed to work in social service agencies and institutions that serve individuals, families, groups and communities. Graduates typically work for welfare services, group homes, shelters, homes for the aged and more.
“I like the ‘anti-oppressive’ approach taught at Centennial — the idea that the client can be empowered, as opposed to simply being prescribed a service,” says D’Lima.
She hopes to take advantage of a transfer credit agreement with Ryerson University, where she plans to complete a degree in social work. After that, D’Lima wants to pursue the art therapist post-graduate program at Montreal’s Concordia University.
Her enthusiasm for the subject shows.
In recognizing the academic achievements of hard-working students of South Asian ancestry, the Desi News Scholarship was awarded to D’Lima last month for her outstanding grade point average of 4.4.
Add to her career trajectory her interest in international development — D’Lima is going to Ghana next summer as part of a contingent of World University Service of Canada members to research grassroots education — as well as her participation in a women’s group of artists and singers, and you have one very busy young woman.
She credits Centennial with helping her galvanize her future plans and giving her the social work exposure she now knows she adores.
“I feel very passionate about the subject,” says D’Lima. “That’s the key to success in anything in life, I imagine.”
For more information about Centennial College’s community and health studies programs, visit www.centennialcollege.ca/healthstudies/wellness.