Tips For Adapting Art for Kids With Significant Disabilities

Posted October 9, 2014 @ 12:35pm | by Danelle

For some students with more significant disabilities finding ways to adapt and include them in an art experience can be discouraging and challenging. They may show no interest in the lesson you are teaching or struggle to participate and stay engaged for any length of time.  For these students the goal may be to get them to engage, try new things and participate on a basic level.

Offer alternative tools and materials.

If a student is showing no interest in your chosen art lesson or materials try introducing other options.  Store interesting alternative printing “tools” in a bag that you can grab easily. Place the tools in front of the student and let them choose anything that might interest them. They get to choose and this will get them motivated.

Suggestions for alternative printing tools that can be dipped in paint:

  • Small square wood block or cork for dipping in paint and printing shapes on paper
  • Small textured paint rollers: Many kids love getting to push these rollers and they can create interesting designs when layered with different colors of paint.
  • Small round rubber ball: Kids like to dip them in paint, hold them in the palm of their hand and roll them around on paper( this can get messy but I have seen it get even the most resistant student get excited.)
  • Kitchen scrubber with knob: Go to the cleaning supply isle. You will find all kinds of interesting things that are cheap and can make interesting printed textures.

Keep interesting alternative art materials in the bag.

Offer these to your student as an option. Many kids will like working with interesting materials such as string , textured papers, cardboard etc……Collect any scraps you may have leftover from art projects. When a sensory aspect is introduced many kids start to show interest. If possible find a way to “translate” your art project into a collage.

Example: If doing a landscape lesson with trees simplify the lesson and have the artist create a tree and fill the top leaf part with string, torn paper pieces etc… See if they can create an interesting textured tree. Many kids enjoy “dropping” the items and seeing how they look. They can choose to paint over the texture items.

Example: If teaching an O’keefe lesson on big flowers help artist to draw a basic outline. Why not create a textured flower? Offer drop pieces of string and have artist fill in the flowers with different colored strings.  Why not textured flowers.  The sensory action step may be the thing that excites the artist enough to be willing to participate.

Some pretty sophisticated looking things can be done with these simple materials .The goal is to find a place for these artists to start. You can start to build their skills with future lessons once you get basic engagement.

Keep alternative art tools and materials together in a bag that you can quickly grab when needed. This makes life simple and much easier. Options can be presented quickly and are in one place. Clean tools when done and return to the bag. You know where things are and they are easy to grab when you are in the middle of teaching a group of students. A simple and important tip!




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