Rawley Silver, Ed.D., ATR-BC, HLM

Developing Cognitive and Creative Skills Through Art, Programs for children with communication disorders or learning disabilities

Excerpts from “Review of the Month,” Rehabilitation Literature, Vol. 40, No.10, pp 312-314, by Martin Engel, Ph.D., arts and humanities advisor to the National Institute of Education in Washington, D.C.

“For many years, common folk wisdom held that the use of language and the functioning of the mind were one and the same. Schooling has been based upon this belief. The negative implications of this mistaken notion were made manifest in the treatment of the deaf, the language-impaired, the learning-disabled, dyslexics, and the host of handicapped children and adults who were treated as if they were less bright, less capable, less creative, less thoughtful, and indeed, less than human. Students who had language difficulties of one sort or another did not test well - what could one expect on purely verbal tests - and were graded on the standardized instruments as less than normal intelligence.

It was commonly assumed that the capacity to think, to conceptualize, and to process information was primarily, if not exclusively, a linguistic skill. In our vernacular lexicon, “dummy” means both not being able to speak, and not being able to think. The consequences of these attitudes have been tragic. Second-rate education, diminished vocational opportunities, misunderstood and untreated secondary symptoms, such as emotional stress and thwarted socialization, have been some of the penalties of language-impairment.

At the same time that the emphasis upon the symbiotic dependence of language and the ability to think was aggressively promoted in the schools, culminating in the obsession with “Basic Skills” (reading, writing, and numeration) the arts (that is nonverbal symbolization and communication) ware deprecated as peripheral, trivial, and at best, enriching to that basic curriculum stressing verbal and mathematical skills. The arts had always found a place in the schools but, at the same time, were never taken seriously as anything but a pleasurable, relaxing, manual/physical adjunct to those teaching and learning activities that require skills with language and were taught daily, in the mornings, required homework, and were continually tested…

This, then, sets the scene for the arrival of empirical research in a field where most common assumptions run counter to the work described in Rawley Silver’s book, Developing Cognitive and Creative Skills Through Art. The appropriateness of this review to Rehabilitation Literature is apparent in Silver’s subtitle, Programs for Children with Communication Disorders or Learning Disabilities…..

Her point is that selecting, combining, representing, conserving, classifying, ordering, etc. are all cognitive skills that do not depend upon language for their development or expression. Silver’s research identifies discrimination skills, recall skills, and the ability to process spatial information. Children with language impairment not only develop such skills no less than “normal” children, but often have stronger visualization powers or can learn such visual/cognitive abilities more quickly and with superior competence…

Other studies consist of juried works prepared by both hearing and deaf children and adults. Judges rated these works on the basis of sensitivity, expressiveness, and originality. The judges either did not know that the works were produced by deaf children or, in the case of comparative studies, could not associate the work with the artists, except by age. Generally speaking, the hearing-impaired did as well as or better than their hearing counterparts…

The drawings, many of which Silver organized into a traveling exhibition called “Shout in Silence: Visual Arts and the Deaf” (circulated by the Smithsonian Institution) provide potent insights, even with the low levels of artistic/drawing skills among some children. The images are highly expressive. Silver calls them “clues to assessing a child’s development.”…

What is becoming better understood in the field of cognitive science, and has yet to be appreciated in the schools in learning and language impairment therapy, is the importance of the arts. Silver puts it this way, “A child’s drawing is a pictorial device that can represent reality vicariously and economically and thus reflect his thinking.”

"Dr. Rawley Silver's latest book,  Identifying Risks for Aggression and Depression Through Metaphors: The Mouse, The Bride, and the Use of Humor is a visually and metaphorically fascinating guide to the Draw A Story Assessment (DAS).  It serves as a concise refresher for seasoned professionals, without the psychometric graphs or charts included in her previous publications. The presentation of this book also provides a gentle introduction for other clinicians, educators, students, and art therapists who are new to the field. Dr. Silver's presentation of the material is eloquent and interesting to read." -Cheryle Earwood in the November issue of the journal, The Arts in Psychotherapy (Volume 37, issue 5)
"Dr. Silver's contributions to the fields of education,art therapy,and counseling cannot be measured. Her work consistently integrates creative methods with extensive research. The assessment tools she has developed are used internationally. This, her latest publication,is a most welcome addition to the literature and is sure to be appreciated by mental health professionals,as well as students and faculty within a wide range of human services." - Christine Turner LPC NCC ATR-BC, Chairperson, Department of Graduate Studies, Art Therapy, Marylhurst University "For decades,the groundbreaking Silver Drawing Test and Draw a Story by Dr.Rawley Silver has been an essential and reliable assessment tool used for diagnosing thousands of students by the clinical art therapists in Miami Dade County Public Schools. In this book, Dr. Silver analyzes the themes and implications behind her most commonly used stimulus drawings worldwide. As with Carl Jung's archetypes, the drawings and stories in this book have universal meanings." -Melinda Fedorko, ATR-BC, LMFT, NBCT, Board Certified Art Therapist and National Board Certified Teacher, Miami Dade County Public Schools "Written by one of our forerunners in the field of art therapy, Rawley Silver continues to provide evidence-based research to the art therapy profession. Using her own developed stimulus drawings and their metaphorical associations, she draws upon neuroscience and empathy to assess human behavior. Her findings lay a brilliant platform on which the mercurial aspect of clinical diagnosis can be more readily accessible." -Poppy Scheibel, M.S., ATR, CPC, Florida Art Therapy Association President Elect -
To order, contact
Purple French Press
(315) 445-8087

“Silver’s new book is an indispensable resource for all art therapists, as well anyone who works with at-risk youth. This is an exceptional reworking of her earlier work and includes new research, a wealth of applications in a range of settings, and a dynamic synthesis of Silver’s lifework.” - Donna Kaiser, Ph.D., ATR-BC, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Graduate Art Therapy Program at Albertus Magnus College  “This new book, which constitutes a compilation of major work by this brilliant author, is stunning in its scope. These assessment methods and research studies offer a unique and balanced blend of art and science that affords an understanding of both individual and universal elements of human emotion and cognition.” - Annette Shore, MA, ATR-BC, NCC, LPC, Marylhurst University, Graduate Program in Art Therapy Counseling  “This book is an extraordinary accomplishment! Rawley Silver’s tools for identifying, assessing, and supporting children and adolescents at risk for violent behavior are a model for combining quantitative findings with qualitative analysis. I highly recommend this volume.” - Amy Ione, Director of the Diatrope Institute  “This is an exceptionally rich and useful book that is on the cutting edge of art therapy quantitative and qualitative research. In this complete and comprehensive book, Silver shares the best of her work thus far. I strongly recommend it be added to every professional library.” - Patricia St. John, EdD, ATR-BC, LCAT, immediate past-chair of the AATA Research Committee and Program Coordinator for the graduate art therapy programs at the College of New Rochelle
To order, contact:
Routledge, NYC
(800) 634-7064 International (859) 528-2230

Another major contribution to the art therapy and counseling literature by one of the most highly esteemed writers and researchers in the field." Christine Turner, LPC, NCC, ATR-BC, ACS, Chairperson, Department of Art Therapy, Marylhurst University.

“Today, as a decade ago, Silver’s book represents a landmark in the development of art therapy”
--ARTherapy, Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.

“studies based on the ‘premise that art can be a language parallel to the written word’”
-NAEA News, A Publication of the National Art Education Association.