4 Strategies For Teaching Art To Special Needs Children

Posted November 2, 2013 @ 11:57am | by Danelle

Identify Skills:

Assess what foundational skills kids may have. Many kids may have been overlooked when other children were learning basic art skills or may not have even been given the chance to participate. They may not know how to do even basic things. People may not have known how to adapt or teach them skills. Many times I see older kids who do not have even basic skills to feel confident to try it and succeed at art. Art could be a great vehicle for expressing feelings and talent. Abstract art is a great way to get these kids started and to teach basic skills. Sometimes adults dismiss abstract designs as being too juvenile and not “real” art and the kids may also be reluctant to do “childish” work. If you can convince them to just try and start experimenting this is the beginning. Even resistant kids with anger issues and low self esteem find hope and joy in just completing a simple line and color design the supposedly is “too simple” to matter. This can be just enough of a glimpse and feeling of success to keep them trying and to begin learning more art skills.

Example of how simple skills lead to more skills: Simple line designs are the beginning to learning basic drawing skills. Learning the skill to draw curvy or wavy lines is the foundation for moving to other things. Once you can draw a curvy or wavy line in a simple design you can learn how to draw a tree with branches(which have curvy or wavy lines) For some kids these simple lessons are where you need to start.

Perseverance and Experimentation

Don’t give up! Kids may struggle with handling art materials because of fine motor skills etc…. Give them enough opportunities to keep trying it over a large span of time. Your child may not do well with paintbrushes but may learn to be great with clay. The key is to keep experimenting. The rule I have learned is you never know until you try. I have learned not to try to predict what medium a kid will be good at until I try. I have had kids who struggled with holding and using paintbrushes turn out be good at detailed sketching with a pencil. I wouldn’t have guessed that. Work with multimedia images and materials. Be open to expanding your view of art. Get over your interpretation of what art is. Do an internet search of art. Artists are doing so many interesting things you haven’t even imagined and you don’t even need to go to a museum or gallery to see them. There is more to art than “being able to draw”. You do not need to be an expert artist to teach art.

Structure and Support

Some kids don’t know where to start. Some kids could do great work they just need structure. With an art schedule and written steps this is a beginning way to give them the extra support they need. They may just need one step broken down into two steps etc…. Time is also a factor. Some kids just need a few more minutes to process each step and take in what they are being shown. They need time for repetition and practice.

Overcoming Limitations and Fear

Overcoming limitations and being different are a part of everyday living for many children with special needs. This can be overwhelming and tiresome. Art becomes just another thing to fail at. Why try? If you can finally convince a hesitant child to attempt to create art immediate success is crucial. Again, even starting with a simple design using line, colors and shapes (where there is no defined right or wrong) is great. This can be a beginning opportunity to get your child engaged. Success is a huge motivation. I have discovered many talented artists in their teens this way. Convincing the older kids to hang in there on this may be challenging but they may have to start at the very beginning steps of learning how to draw basic lines and shapes . They may even just need to learn basic methods for using different materials and continue working with them.


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