“Adaptive Art: Goli Hashemi on ARTogether’s Expressive Arts-Based Occupational Therapy Program”

What excites ARTogether board member Goli Hashemi about art is how adaptive it can be. 

Goli leads ARTogether’s Expressive Arts-Based Occupational Therapy Program  for Oakland International High School (OIHS) and Fremont High School newcomer students. This program provides newcomers and ESL youth with a safe space where they can use the various mediums of art as a means of self-expression and engagement while also applying some of their skills and learning new ones. By exploring activities that support skill-building and healing, the class aims to promote school performance and success. 

As an occupational therapist, Goli’s job is to help clients with diverse physical, cognitive or mental abilities better navigate their daily activities; such as building routines, being more productive, and engaging in leisure activities. Goli works along with her clients to identify obstacles or challenges, whether they are in their environment/context, part of the activity they need to or want to do (occupations) or personal traits or abilities, and form a plan to better navigate them and allow the clients to successfully manage the desired activity . Sometimes that plan involves teaching a person new skills. For example, an occupational therapist might teach a client how to manage their time to help their anxiety with work or school related occupations. Other times, the environment must be adapted, for example providing a client with a modified keyboard to type more efficiently. This can be a challenge with certain occupations; but when it comes to art, there is much more flexibility.

“Who says you have to paint using a paintbrush? Maybe you can paint directly with your hands or no hands!” Goli says. “That’s the beauty of art. It doesn’t have a defined way of being done, as long as you want to express yourself.”


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The weekly Expressive Arts-Based Occupational Therapy class, currently offered online due to COVID-19, is open to students referred from OIHS and Fremont High School. Students are provided with $50 art kits filled with paints, sketchbooks, air dry clay, and colored pencils. Registration for our fall Occupational Therapy class will open up to OIHS and Fremont High School students in the fall.

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