Tips for Art Projects in Special Ed and How They Benefit Students
written by: Sharon Dominica
• edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom
• updated: 1/5/2012
Art can be a wonderful way to reach out and connect to children. Here are some of the benefits of using art projects for special needs students.
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Art activities and projects are much more than a way to keep children occupied and out of trouble. Especially in the context of special needs, art activities have many benefits. This article explains why it’s so important to include art projects for special needs students.
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Recognizing Gifts and Abilities
Art activities can be a great way to recognize and gain information about the child’s gifts and abilities. You can use it to identify specific art related skills like the ability to draw well, paint well, or the use of color. But art activities can help us to get other related information. We can find out more about the child’s fine coordination skills, the position in which they work best and identify if the child has visual difficulties. In addition, we get information regarding the work skills of the child like attention, neatness, and frustration tolerance.
We can also find out if a child has a specific interest in a particular subject like animals, cars etc. All this information can be used to make IEPs and also to plan for the future of the child. So next time you want to assess the abilities of a child, give them an art project instead of the other traditional assessments.
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Art is a medium of expression. This becomes important in the context of children with communication difficulties. Some children with special needs may be able to communicate their needs verbally, but may require a medium like art to describe their feelings and emotions. To allow adequate expression through art, we as the teachers must ask the child leading questions about their work, and be patient enough to wait and listen to their answers.
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Children with special needs find it difficult to participate in a majority of leisure activities. It is important to help them explore various other options for leisure and develop interests which they will be able to pursue during their adult life too. Art is one such activity that they can do, without exerting themselves too much.
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Art is one activity where there is no fixed standard. There is no wrong or right. No work of art can be labeled as “ bad". This allows the child to be able to do art at their own pace without competition and expectations. Whatever they do is beautiful and as good as what everyone else does. They can finish it in five minutes, or work on it for a week. Children love art because there are no fixed expectations. Children with special needs who find it hard perform as well as the other children in the class; enjoy art activities for this reason.
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Art projects for special needs students when done in a group can be used to develop group skills. Children with different ability levels can have different “jobs" or roles within a group. They may not have the skills to complete the entire activity on their own, but being a part of the group helps them get the satisfaction of completing the activity. Working together will also help improve their social interaction and communication skills.
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Art can be a base for a future vocation. Children who have the interest and skills in this area will enjoy working in a job where they have to do art, or art related activities. Exposure to art helps us develop interests that may have an important role in their future.
Art has been used for therapy in children with special needs for many decades. It has been found to be effective, and a wonderful tool to reach out to the hearts of children with special needs. Ensure that you adapt materials and activities to make them accessible to the children. Encourage them, and celebrate their talents. All the best.