Benefits of Origami

Origami, n. the Japanese art of folding paper.

The word “origami” is derived from two Japanese words, oru, to fold, and kami, paper. The exact geographic origins of origami is unclear; however, it is without a doubt that Japan has elevated the practice to a high art form throughout history. The oldest account of origami was documented in 1797AD with the publication of Senbazuru Orikata (Thousand Crane Folding). The first modern original origami works emerged in the 1950s and were crafted by the hands of origami grandmaster Akira Yoshizawa (Wu, 2006).

In recent years, origami has transcended art and has been useful in other disciplines such as education, science, and mental health. In education, origami has been shown to be helpful in mathematics, particularly with geometry and spatial visualization abilities (Cakmak, Isiksal, & Koc, 2014). In addition, origami may be beneficial for teaching mathematics to the deaf and hard of hearing  in working with special needs populations (Chen, 2006 and Sze, 2005). In science, origami has become increasingly helpful; studying the properties of paper have been used to model microscopic phenomena such as material properties of crystalline structures and lattice imperfections. In addition, it has been useful in exploring scientific properties such as light exposure in photography and anatomy (Surface to Structure: Folded Forms, 2014). 
In my practice as a child psychotherapist, I have found origami to be an extremely useful therapeutic tool. It has helped with clients with ADHD as it requires focus and helps improve concentration and attention. In addition, it has helped me connect with developmentally disabled individuals and those with speech and language difficulties. Origami has also helped clients struggling with anger and frustration as it requires patience, provides opportunities for clients to work through frustration, and encourages them to ask for help.  It has also enabled my younger clients to practice motor control, spatial visualization, and organizational skills. I have also observed that completion of an origami structure often boosts a client’s self-esteem by providing a feeling of accomplishment.
Origami can be simplistic and generally requires minimal supplies. It is useful for groups and individuals of all ages. No specific artistry skills are required and practicing with someone encourages a relationship and connection. Most important, origami is fun and has helped me connect with many people I encounter, whether they be clients, friends, or family!
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Resources:
Cakmak, S., Isiksal, M., & Koc, Y. (2014). Investigating Effect of Origami-Based Instruction on Elementary Students’ Spatial Skills and Perceptions. The Journal of Educational Research107(1), 59-68.
Chen, K. (2006). Math in motion: Origami math for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Journal of deaf studies and deaf education11(2), 262-266.
“Surface to Structure: Folded Forms.” The Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003. June 19-July 3 2014.
Sze, S. (2005). Effects of Origami Construction on Children with Disabilities.Online Submission.
Wu, Jason. (2006). Origami: A Brief History of the Ancient Art of Paper Folding. Retrieved from: http://www.origami.as/Info/history.php.

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