Tips For Adapting Art For Special Needs Kids In Your Classroom

Posted April 4, 2014 @ 11:59am | by Danelle

Providing a successful inclusive art experience is about assessing, simplifying, and adapting to each child’s abilities. This can be challenging on an individual level as well as in a group classroom setting. In a perfect world there would be infinite time and resources to provide this. Many times projects can become oversimplified for a child with special needs where they are not learning new skills. Or they simply are not getting to “actively” participate in the creation of their own self directed work.

Tips for adapting art for kids with special needs:

  • Present and explain art projects with one step directions. Sometimes all a student with disabilities may need to be successful in having an inclusive art experience is to have information presented to them in a different way. Some kids can’t break down the idea as a “whole”. But if you help them find a place to begin with a simple Step 1 and Step 2 that they can follow it may be enough support to allow them to participate successfully. They are not just be an observer to someone else “creating “ their art work for them.

  • Give kids with special needs more time. Many kids may just need more time to process and complete the instructions. This can be a challenge especially if you are in a group class setting. Let the artist know that it is okay if they just complete a few steps of the project. This can help decrease frustration and anxiety that may cause the artist to not even try to participate.

  •  Try presenting information in a visual format. If possible and appropriate use pictures with written steps that the artist can look at for completing the art project to reinforce concepts and instructions. Write the steps with pictures of art materials, what the end picture should look like etc…. Think about any visual aids that could be included with written instructions. Since each child is different try different things. Also, a whole list of steps may work well for one child but it may be too much information for another. Some kids need to see one step at a time. This is all about experimenting and adapting.

  •  Demonstrate what you would like the artist to do. Show the artist how to do the “action.” Then have the artist try. Seeing how something is done may be all a student with special needs requires to be able to successfully start and complete an art project.

  •  Offer alternative ways of doing things. If a child struggles to hold a pencil for a drawing assignment or project is there a way to translate the project into another art material? Instead of drawing the subject or theme could the artist use clay instead ? It can be especially challenging to find ways to adapt projects for kids with limited motor skills and abilities. Think about ways to translate the project using the process of printing. Kids may be able to grasp an object in the palm of their hand on their own or with hand over hand assistance. Look around and find objects that can be dipped in paint and pressed on the paper. This can be a way for the artist to actively get to participate and not just be an observer as someone else does their art for them. Is there a way to include an element from the lesson you want to teach in this? It is all about experimenting and thinking outside the box. The process of finding a way to adapt projects can be an extremely creative process in itself.

  • For adaptive lessons to help you teach and build art skills check out my Ebook lessons!


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