Find the right tools
Some artist supply stores and online catalogs such as Dick Blick Art Materials ( dickblick.com) sell adaptive art tools.
These include universal cuffs, which attach a paintbrush or pen
to your wrist; lap boards for arts and crafts or writing; tabletop
easels and potting wheels that can be used by people in
wheelchairs or scooters; and easy-grip and jumbo paintbrushes,
pencils, crayons and pastels.
Another option is to create or modify your own tools. Brian
Grossman, a professional sculptor who was diagnosed with
primary-progressive MS in 1984, has developed a variety of
solutions that allow him to continue creating his alabaster
and bronze sculptures, despite limited
mobility, and reduced dexterity and
strength in his left hand and arm.
PHOTO BY JOHN WAUGH
Grossman has outfitted his large studio
in Boulder, Colo., so that all of his tools are
within easy reach. He also has constructed
magnetized extenders to help him pick
up dropped items. To accommodate his
reduced dexterity, Grossman puts guards
on dangerous tools like grinders, and he protects his hands
with rubber gloves lined with cotton.
Grossman estimates he has created and sold more than 1,000
pieces of sculpture in the last 37 years. “Even if my legs hurt,
even if I can only carve for half an hour at a time, I would never,
ever give up my artwork,” he says. “My artwork is who I am.
Without my artwork, I would not be here at all.”
PHOTOS BY JOHN WAUGH
Brian Grossman’s distinctive sculptures reflect the unique journey
of his life. He's produced hundreds of original sculptures using
Colorado alabaster, many of which have been cast in bronze.
a study from 2010, published in
the Journal of Rehabilitation
Research & Development,
showing that the repetitive
movement inherent in using a
paintbrush, snapping a camera
shutter, typing, playing an
instrument or participating in
other art activities strengthens the
synapses in the brain, which can
improve hand-eye coordination.
“Physically, in terms of hand-eye
coordination, art therapy is the
logical extension of putting 20
pegs into 20 holes,” he says.
There’s also evidence that
distracting activities, such as
engaging in art, helps alleviate
pain, and that physical exercise,
which can include the development
of art skills like painting or
sculpting, may improve cognition.
Other studies have found that
art therapy reduces anxiety and
stress in people with various
physical, psychological and
behavioral conditions. Experts
agree that more studies relating
specifically to MS are needed.
Music, sweet music
Like the visual arts, music has
myriad psychological benefits.
In 2006, Expert Review of
seven case reports and seven
studies of music therapy, and
concluded that singing or playing
an instrument correlated with
greater self-acceptance and lower
rates of anxiety and depression
among people with MS.
Playing, singing or listening
to certain songs can boost your