Chapter 17: Telling Their Stories Through iPad Art: Narratives of Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

by Jennifer Chatsick, Rhonda McEwen, and Anne Zbitnew


Chapter Abstract:

The Visual Storytelling Club in Toronto, a group of college students with intellectual disabilities, uses iPads as devices for non-linear storytelling. Guided by various prompts and scenarios, the students draw responses from their own lives, drawing their stories as a means to overcome limited literacy skills and difficulties in expressing themselves verbally (either as a result of verbal/speech/language impairments, shyness, or social anxiety in new settings or situations). Interestingly, the creation of visual stories was remarkably different when using an iPad versus other media such as marker and paper or even a desktop computer. The perceived affordances of the iPad, or the functions and opportunities it seems to offer, greatly impact the students’ interactions with this medium as they create their visual stories. A part of the artist is constituted in the telling, and the medium is entangled in the tale. Thus, we conjecture that these types of devices begin to blur the boundaries between the tool and the stories told.


Hands-On Exploration:

This activity asks you to engage the iPad both as an artistic medium and as a storytelling medium. Before beginning, explore through class conversation what the relationship between art and stories. How is something like painting or drawing related to narrative practices? How are these both ways of knowing the world? Secondly, it is important for an exploration of this chapter to discuss the idea of “medium-specificity.” How is telling a story or creating art different than if you were telling the same story/painting the same picture on a different medium?

Now that you’re ready to begin the exercise, here are the steps!

1.   To get used to how the device feels and works, we encourage experimenting with the 3 apps we have downloaded (Artrage, DrawCast and Asketch) by writing your name several times using different colors and brush sizes.

2.   Draw a self-portrait.

3.   Draw the person sitting beside you.

4.   Sharing the iPad, one person begins a drawing and passes the device to a partner who will continue the drawing.  The iPad is passed back and forth until the drawing is complete.

5.   Sitting in a circle, each person begins a sketch and passes the iPad to the person to their left.  Detail is added and the iPad is passed again until the device comes back to the initial artist.

6.   Draw yourself standing upside down.

7.   Draw your spaceship.

8.   Draw shapes in various colors and sizes.

9.   Draw where you live.

10.  Draw your favorite:  food, color, animal, music, season, number, person, movie, sport, story, hobby, what you ate for lunch…..

11.  In pair, interview your partner by asking them about their favorite things and they will draw the response.

12.  Listening to music, draw what you hear in the song.

13.  Close your eyes and draw what you hear.

14. Draw silence

15. Finish the following sentences by responding with images:  “I am…., I feel…., I think….”

16.  Respond to words by drawing-cold, tired, hot, happy, fast, slow, peace, war, helping…

17.  Respond to questions by drawing-“How do you feel before you have to write a test?  How do you feel after the test is written?  How do you feel on a rainy day?  How do you feel on your birthday?  An elephant just walked into the room!”

Finally, the group should conclude by reflecting on the experience and how exploring the ideas mentioned at the beginning has been concretized through hands-on practice.