An education rich in STEM components becomes even more viable when adding the “A” for Art to make STEAM. Engaging in the Arts helps build creativity, confidence, focus and collaboration. For students with special needs, this sometimes requires some classroom modifications to ensure a successful outcome. As part of inclusion here are a few ideas that may be helpful:
1. Make sure the child can access the art materials comfortably. Proper ergonomics are key to a successful art experience. The Height Right Chair (minus the tray) pushed up to an art table is a great accommodation for a student that needs extra support. The inclusive stool-like design, with adjustable seat and footrest height allow for more stability and security and can be configured for varying age ranges.
2. Consider using a Lightbox for children with multiple disabilities including cognitive and/or visual impairments. These can be configured for desktop use and may help with contrasts during tracing and other activities.
3. Overhead lights can cause excess glare and children on the autism spectrum are sometimes sensitive to fluorescent lights as well. Cozy Shades are quick and easy to apply to light panels and may help to diffuse harshness and glare. (P.S. Changing paper choices from glossy white to matte or more neutral colors may help too!)
4. For more complicated or multi-step art projects, try the backward chaining method. Have the student complete just the final step or two of an activity to allow for task completion and a finished project. Work back sequentially adding another step with each repeated exposure.
5. Praise the art work uniquely to help build intrinsic motivation and a sense of accomplishment. Instead of saying “Great painting” customize the praise by stating “I like the way you used your red and yellow colors for the trees to make it look like fall.” Or, instead of “Nice job” be more specific and say “I can tell you put a lot of effort into your clay project.”
If you have budding artists with special needs, please let us know your best tips for reasonable accommodations.