Tips For Teaching Art To Kids With Autism

Posted January 1, 2015 @ 7:50pm | by Danelle

Most kids with autism have not been exposed to quality art education experiences. Projects may have been adapted for them in ways that were oversimplified. They did not teach new skills or continue to grow their skills. Or kids were so overwhelmed and had to focus on overcoming challenges that they were not able to absorb information.

Think of your role as the person who can be the “bridge” and break down barriers for these kids who are natural visual thinkers and learners. You can lead them to the place where their natural strengths can be showcased.

  • Most of the autistic kids I work with are visual learners. They see things like right brain artists. While initially it may not appear that they have superior skills in this area once the right way to teach them is discovered and obstacles are removed they pick up on skills. Visual art is a natural land for them. As Temple Grandin said, they “think in pictures.
  • Find out how your student communicates. I have never had any two students with autism who are the same. This means you need to experiment and observe. You can learn a lot from trial and observation. It is all about communication and structure.
  • Demonstration with simple instructions and repetition are key. Utilize their visual ability when teaching them. Put pictures and words together. Make a list of steps for any project. Draw a simple sketch box to go with each step. You don’t have to be fancy. Just take 5 minutes to put together a structure for your student. Have them repeat the project and give them time.
  • Start with fundamentals. I mean basic things. Remember these kids may not have absorbed how to draw even basic lines. Curved, wavy straight lines. Start with simple abstract line designs. It will give you an idea of where their skills are at. Even though they may be 12 or 13 their skills may only be at the level of a five year old. While time may have been spent working on social skills, speech or reading there probably was not someone working on making sure they knew how to draw. They were not storing up information like the other 5 year olds that were getting art instruction.
  • Their “free time” drawing may resemble drawings that look similar to very young children. They probably did not absorb anything beyond this since they were busy trying to overcome other challenges that were emerging. While they are extremely visual they may not have made connections that allow them to draw on the visual images they have in their heads. Kids may not have been able to absorb these basic skills if someone tried to teach them. These kids have talent. You just have to keep experimenting and find the way they communicate and learn. They probably will not absorb things from the traditional way you are teaching.
  • Provide extra structure. Take the steps you use in your typical art lesson and go further to break them down even more. This provides even more structure. This may be all you need for your student to succeed. It can be as simple as taking an extra five or ten minutes to provide this.



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