Tips For Teaching Art Skills To Children With Special Needs

Posted August 22, 2013 @ 4:58pm | by Danelle

Knowledge and ability to use fundamental art skills leads to self directed, original art creation. Kids with special needs may participate in craft projects but not gain foundational skills that can be built on and lead to art that is more self directed.  Because children with special needs do not always learn these fundamental skills their talent is often underestimated and overlooked. Why is it important for your child to create independent self directed art? It is their opportunity to offer their view. They have a view. They get to be who they are.  This is the place they get to show us and share it. Even an abstract shape or line design expresses a view. If you sat down and drew a line design it would not look the same as your child’s design. If you both drew a tree they would look different. Think of it as developing the artist your child is. This means their own style and ways of seeing things.

Sometimes kids with special needs need more concrete and specific steps broken down in a more structured way. This does not mean they can’t get to a place where they are creating original art work. Many times they need to learn with very specific steps or a “formula” to follow and see exactly how to do something. Sometimes since these kids draw things that look like they “copied” the other person’s picture it is assumed they will not be able to be creative in an individual way. They may be overlooked and considered “not creative” or not capable of learning more. This is the place where they need to start to solidify and absorb skills. Once they have the fundamental skills they can start to break out, experiment, and make their own individual self directed art work that reflects their way of seeing things.

Trying to figure out how to teach and adapt art can feel overwhelming and challenging. Here are some adaptive steps to follow when teaching and adapting an art project to children with special needs.

• Demonstration
• Repetition
• Experimentation
• Building

Use this process for adapting an art project you want to teach. (Here is an example for a lesson for drawing a tree) Use this process for an art lesson you want to teach.

(How to draw a tree)
1. Trunk
2. Branches
3. Leaves.
Write out these steps, review with child and draw a tree using these steps. You draw the tree on your paper and have your child draw the tree on their paper. Do the steps together. Repeat until the child knows the steps. Initially your child’s tree may look like yours.

Continue having your child draw trees. (or the subject of your lesson) Repeating the steps and subject matter ingrains all of these skills. See if they can do it independently without your help. Kids with special needs can learn things. More time and repetition are the simple things they need to build skills.

Explain that things don’t have to be done one way. Maybe branches are bigger or shorter. Maybe leaves can be different colors. Maybe it is a fantasy tree. How would that look? Draw some trees that use bright colors. (Your tree does not need to be perfect and you do not need to be self conscious.)Let’s try some things. This shows kids what it means to experiment. Eventually after drawing more trees your child’s trees will become “their own”.

Start with the steps: 1. Trunk, 2. Branches, 3. Leaves. This is familiar and they have mastered this. It continues to become concrete. Continue to expand skills. Introduce new details like drawing bark, or new art mediums, paint, oil pastels, etc… Instead of stopping there ask them for ideas on other things they could add to the tree (colors, textures etc…) Start teaching new skills for using art materials. This introduces new foundational skills and starts with something they already know.



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