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Developing Fine Motor Skills in Students with Autism Using Art

written by: Barbara • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 7/12/2012

Art can be a excellent medium for developing fine motor skills and sensory integration for students with autism. By putting a paintbrush or a drawing pencil in their hands and sitting them in front of an oversized blank canvas, teachers can use their uniqueness to develop their art and their skills.

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    Art and Fine Motor Skills for Autistic Students

    Students with autism have a number of defining characteristics that may present a disconnect in the mainstream classroom. Some may have difficulty connecting with peers and other adults and appear lost in an inner world. Communication issues may prevent them from expressing their needs or frustrations and may turn into behavioral issues that could be disruptive to other students and to them in their learning acquisition. Keep reading to see how "Art" can turn a class into a development of fine motor skills for students with autism.

    Tips for Using Art in Developing Fine Motor Skills:

    • Create an art space in a corner of the classroom that can provide the student with a distraction free working place.
    • Provide only the art supplies that you want the autistic student to use for the art session. A lab coat or apron for students would be great in protecting clothing and exposed skin from paint colors or the tips of drawing pencils.
    • Use art supplies such as paint brushes and drawing pencils that students can easily grasp and use in making drawing patterns and brush strokes. Make sure that students are using the art tools correctly. Monitor location of all art supplies during the art session. Create a safe working and learning environment for autistic students.
    • Provide students with tracing paper and an easy picture to trace using the drawing pencils. Place the paper on a solid surface and place a cloth or plain butcher paper underneath to keep the desk surface clean. If students want to draw their own picture make sure there is oversized art paper they can use.
    • Once the picture has been traced, provide students with a small tray of basic colors: red, yellow, blue and green to mix and match in coloring the traced picture or drawing. Keep the brush selections simple; one larger painting brush for broader brush strokes and a smaller one for developing the student's fine motor skills in painting within the lines of the traced picture or drawing.
    • Have the Instructional Assistant or resource staff monitor the autistic student by keeping a log of student engagement with the art project: Questions may include: "Did student engage in the art project?" Yes or No; "Did student complete the tracing of the picture?" Yes or No and "Did student complete the final painting of the picture?" Yes or No. A final question would be: "Did student communicate like or dislike of the art project?" Yes or No.
    • When the student has completed the art session, provide immediate feedback and celebrate the student's art work by displaying it on the wall as "Art Project of the Week," before sending it home to parents for a family celebration of school success.

    Art can create an excellent medium for students with autism to connect with repetitive fine motor motions on a canvas using pencils to trace or free-flow art creativity and a brush to connect colors in art projects that are as unique to them as their autism.

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    Basic Art Supplies for Autistic Students

    Art Supplies
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