How Creative Confidence Leads to Life Skills For Your Special Education Kids

Are some people more creative than others or are they simply more confident?

That question was posed by innovation consultant and bestselling author, Tom Kelley, at the Aspen Ideas Festival. When he was asked how to help people become more confident, he said that he would often think back to kindergarten. In kindergarten, it seems like everyone thinks of themselves as artists. Asking if there are any artists in a kindergarten class would almost always have every child in the room enthusiastically raise their hands. Something similar happens with first graders, although their enthusiasm decreases a bit. However, this enthusiasm seems to decline as the years go by. If you were to ask a group of sixth graders if they are artists, only one or two might actually raise their hands.

So, why does the love of creating art diminish as children get older? Some people might chalk it up to changing interests, but why would that account for almost every child in a kindergarten class full of artists? Kelley has said that he starts to see a change around fourth grade. There are still artistic kids at this age, but many seem to lose what he has dubbed “creative confidence”, or the courage to act on a creative idea. He believes this is what creativity truly is. People who don’t think of themselves as very creative come up with wildly inventive ideas all the time, yet they never seem to want to act on them.

According to Kelley, a lack of creative confidence isn’t about the fear of failure, but the fear of being judged.

They may come up with creative ideas all the time, but they don’t want to express them out of fear or embarrassment.

Promoting creativity in special education students- or with any student for that matter- not only helps students develop a sense of accomplishment, but it increases right-side brain development. The right side of the brain allows our students to be free spirits, to feel passionate, to play with vivid colors, to place something on an empty canvas, to be boundless with their imagination, to use poetry as a mean of self expression, and to be okay with the unfamiliar. The ability to draw a picture, write a story, or play music may not seem like much to some, but these talents can also translate into valuable social skills, life skills, and crucial school-to-work skills.

So what’s the lesson? Teachers and parents should always encourage creativity in children. Even if what our kids create isn’t a Monet masterpiece, allowing them to express their creativity can be extremely rewarding for them. It builds creative confidence, and that’s something that ALL students need.


At Stanfield We Think You Should Know:It is important to encourage your students to be confident and explore their talents and likings at a young age. Being able to express their ideas without worrying about failure, embarrassment, or doubt, can lead to a smoother transition throughout the milestones in their lives. Our Transitions Curriculum will give students the skills they need to make a successful transition from school to work and adulthood. Click here to find out more about the #1 Transitions curriculum in the nation!

The Stanfield Way

The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.

Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.

Stanfield Special Education Curriculum

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