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Art as Language, Access to Thoughts and Feelings through Stimulus Drawings

“Silver has designed a non-threatening mode of assessment that transcends that transcends the use of verbal language as the use of verbal language as the ultimate tool in evaluating the intelligence and potential learning of both children and adults. The text relates the numerous research studies that were conducted by both Silver and colleagues nationwide. These studies, geared toward discovering whether the Silver Drawing Test of Cognition and Emotion (SDT) and the Draw A Story (DAS) were valid and reliable, involved a variety of populations and utilized control groups or previously validated tests as a comparison. Silver’s findings bring a ray of hope to art therapists who find it a challenge to present their client evaluations to other mental health and/​or academic communities.

Art as Language documents Silver’s journey in discovering how art is used as a form of communication and how stimulus drawings in particular can provide vital information and create a connection between the artist and the recipient of the artwork… The three basic subtests that comprise Silver’s SDT are 1) the Predictive Drawing which assesses concepts of horizontality, verticality, and sequential order; 2) Drawing from Observation which, which assess concepts of space; and 3) the Drawing from Imagination, encompassing an emotional projection scale, which assesses attitudes toward self and others. The Drawing from Imagination also looks a elements of creativity and evaluates an individual’s ability to select, combine, and represent. In each of these subtests, individuals are supplied with stimulus drawings. They are either in the form of a pre-drawn image to which an individual adds lines and shapes, as in the Predictive Drawing, or numerous shapes to copy, as in the Drawing from observation, or a series of drawing prompts from which to develop, as in the Drawing from Imagination. Through the implementation of the SDT and the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, Silver discovered that the intelligence of deaf students was greatly underestimated….The “Draw a Story” (DAS) another assessment tool developed by Silver, was found to be a valid screening tool for depression. In addition, there was a significant correlation between the SDT and the DAS. Research studies involving the DAS concluded that there was a link between strongly negative responses to the stimulus drawings and mental depression. Although positive responses do not exclude depression, negative fantasies can identify children or adolescents at risk (Silver, 2001).

Citing several case studies and providing examples of SDT pre- and post results, Silver continued her investigative studies using the art-based assessment (SDT) with school-aged children and adolescents challenged by learning disabilities, hearing impairments, reading difficulties, depressive illnesses, and other emotionally handicapping conditions. The illustrations and and figures used throughout the text provide solid examples of the development changes that occurred as students progressed through an art-based curriculum. Other research indicated that stimulus drawings appeared to help adults and adolescents with brain injuries organize their thoughts and ideas ina more cohesive manner…

Art making is central to Silver’s approach to fostering emotional and cognitive growth. In the practice of art therapy, Silver (2001) uses stimulus drawings with four basic objectives to facilitate cognitive and emotional development. They are, “to expand the range of communication, to invite exploratory learning, to present tasks that are self-rewarding, and to build self-esteem.”…

The quantitative studies of the SDT and DAS were impressive, especially in a field that traditionally has eschewed testing and research. Not only has Silver presented a tool for assessment backed by solid research, but also a strong rationale for the need for continued art experiences throughout an individual’s life span.”

--The Arts in Psychotherapy,
Vol 29, No 1. pp 56-60