Do’s, Don’ts and Ideas
Art is for Everyone
Art class for students with special needs can be both extremely challenging and wonderfully rewarding. It’s challenging when you have students that put everything in their mouth, enjoy art class only for the sensory input of the art materials, have fine motor challenges, throw supplies and so on. It’s wonderfully rewarding when the projects are designed to meet the student’s needs and interests and they make exciting special works of art.
A pet peeve of mine is when you see art projects that are supposedly created by the students but are actually largely facilitated by the teacher or the assistant. Self-portraits where the features are perfectly positioned, carefully created landscapes, or symmetrical clay pots, while certainly possible for some students, are more often the work of the adult and show little of the student’s creative spirit.
What better time than Mother’s Day to do an art project that allows a student to really express himself! To this end, I’ve compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts when planning an art activity with your special needs kids.
Do make the project relevant. Read a story, show a video, have a discussion.
Do have plenty of visuals, including a finished project.
Do chose a project that encourages self-expression
Do have adapted materials (scissors, containers that don’t tip, pencil grips etc.)
Do praise the process and the outcome
Do provide physical support in the least intrusive way possible (example, support at the elbow)
Don’t have a preconceived idea of what the student’s finished piece should look like
Don’t give direct instruction on outcome (for example if you want the students to draw a bunch of flowers, you want to tell them to draw lines that will be flower stems, but not how many, what color or in what direction).
Don’t ask the student to add to or change their project.
Don’t pre-cut or prepare materials more than absolutely necessary
Don’t make comparisons, especially to the sample project
Materials That Encourage Self-Expression
squeeze bottles with paint or colored glue (there are many good recipes on Pinterest, here’s one: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265782815489944107/)
stamps (made from sponges, fruit/vegetables, items such as forks, erasers, leaves, etc.)
collage materials (I kept a box in my classroom where I kept scraps of all kinds, including bulletin board remnants, yarn, miscellaneous stickers, Styrofoam, marker caps, magazines and so on)
Ideas for Mother’s Day
I’m a big fan of Pinterest (check out my boards! https://www.pinterest.com/enable2learn/), so I scoured for great projects you can adapt for your special kids allowing them to show mom just how much they care. Be sure to follow the Do’s and Don’ts so that the finished project is as unique as the child giving the gift! Have fun!
Pipe Cleaner Roses: Students can shape the pipe cleaners any way they like. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/AQLfPEXIZaKIXpHwmtGl4qCn3XA0c8y5G8i-ZLK0gEc6k0nu2FsO2Vg/
Pompom Picture Frames: You may want to add the photo after all the pompoms are glued on. I suggest using a circle for the flower base.
Painted Rock: Nice to put in the garden, in a potted plant or as a paper weight. Or add wiggly eyes to make it a pet rock.
Painted Pot: If you don’t want to add a plant, it makes a great a pencil holder.
Beaded Necklace: No pin for this, but my kids always took special pride in stringing up a necklace (or bracelet) for their mom. It’s best if you have a wide assortment of beads allowing the students to pick through and choose just the right ones!
For more information on adapting art for students with intellectual disabilities, autism or multiple disabilities read https://www.incredibleart.org/files/special.htm.