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Art Supplies for the Special Education Classroom

written by: Sharon Dominica • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 9/11/2012

Don't know where to buy special education art supplies? They're available in most craft and teaching supply stores. This article provides information on what to buy and why.

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    Art is commonly used for children with special needs both for learning and therapy as well as leisure and fun. It is an important part of any special education program. Children with special needs may need special art supplies to help them participate in art activities easily and comfortably. However, most of these special education art supplies can be found in any craft store. Here are some ideas on what to buy for children with special needs.

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    Pencils, Markers, Crayons

    These are often the basis for most art activities. Jumbo pencils and thick markers are easier to use than thin ones for children with hand function difficulties. Children with developmental disabilities find it easier to learn to use a marker than a pencil or a crayon. Children with visual difficulties also find it easier to use thick markers to draw rather than pencils, for they tend to be a bit darker.

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    Children with hand function difficulties and visual difficulties prefer to use larger sheets of paper. As their coordination is not very good, they find it difficult to contain their art work within a small sheet of paper. On the other hand, a child with autism may prefer a small piece of paper as it provides more structure. Children with hand function difficulties benefit from a board or pins that help to stabilize their paper. Be flexible when experimenting with different positions according to the special needs of the child. Some additional ideas include using easels, lapboards, or letting the child work on the floor.

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    Safety scissors are a good option for children with poor coordination or poor cognition. Training scissors that provide an additional set of holes where the teacher can put their fingers and guide the child, are a great way to teach scissor use. Self-opening scissors have a spring that pushes the scissors open every time you finish cutting, and this can be very useful for children who have low muscle strength in their hands. Pre-cut patterns can be used for children who are not able to cut.

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    Glue in a press tube is a lot easier to use for a child with hand function difficulties. You may need to experiment with different brands and sizes to find a tube that the child is able to use easily.

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    Painting Supplies

    Thick-handled paintbrushes are usually found with preschool supplies. These are great for children with hand function difficulties. Sponge brushes and other large brushes allow children to enjoy colors and painting even if they have poor coordination. Large sheets of paper also make it easier to paint. An apron helps a child work more confidently without feeling fearful of getting themselves dirty, especially those with sensory issues.

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    Every child with special needs is different and there are no specific guidelines that can be followed for all children. However, with a little perseverance and creativity, it is possible to help children with special needs participate in art, and enjoy it. You can find most of the supplies mentioned in this article in a craft store like Michael's, or at a school supplies store like Lakeshore ( Hopefully this list of special education art supplies and guide on how to use them will help your special needs students adapt in art more easily.