“It is always a goal of mine as an art teacher to meet the needs of my students while at the same time helping them to grow into strong, culturally diverse, empathetic, and resilient humans. By incorporating adaptations into art curriculum, we allow students with special needs to feel a sense of empowerment, independence, and pride. We give them a vehicle to express themselves, advocate for themselves, and show us the things within them that they often times cannot otherwise express.
“When I flip my classroom to demonstrate what it is like to be an artist with a disability, it has a different effect. Students discover and learn the challenges they may not face regularly as an artist. They are forced to understand limits through their own experiences. This supports their growth as diverse and culturally respectful individuals.”
Creating a classroom environment that is conducive to learning means knowing the needs of each student. Do they need adaptive seating that allows them to move to focus? Are the overhead lights too bright? Do they learn better at a standing desk? Do they need a quiet space or noise reduction headphones when overstimulated? You’ll find an inviting and supportive learning environment leads to increased participation and reduced behaviors.
Students with sensory processing disorder may be over-responsive or under-responsive to sensory stimuli or even sensory cravers. They may have challenges with touch, visual perception, sounds, smells, taste, vestibular motion, and proprioceptive stimuli. Providing them with interactive sensory experiences according to their individual needs, such as swinging or rocking for vestibular stimuli, for example, helps calm and self-regulate, which nurtures learning.
Encourage having fun with large and fine motor activities while improving balance, coordination, muscle tone, hand-eye coordination, motor planning, and more. Manipulatives help develop finger dexterity needed for handwriting and scissors skills as well as activities of daily living skills such as buttoning and shoe tying. Increased abilities with large motor skills can improve self-confidence and socialization.
Practice basic daily living skills such as dressing, using utensils, cooking, shopping, and handling money to increase independence and self-esteem; promote their knowledge of safety at home and in the community. Engaging students in learning different types of job skills can lead to employment opportunities in the community.
How do your students express or regulate their emotions? Do they recognize social cues? Developing social/emotional intelligence is essential for lifelong success. Help them learn to identify their own feelings and those of others; explore social skills strategies to build friendships and promote appropriate behavior in the classroom and beyond.
A student’s inability to communicate can affect social interaction, learning, behavior, literacy, and classroom participation. Speech/language pathologists work with students to increase fluency, articulation, volume control, or teach them how to use an augmentative or alternative communication device.
What does your student need to succeed in learning core subjects? Assistive technology tools such as reading pens and leveled or Hi-Lo texts benefit the struggling reader. Teaching math skills with manipulatives gives them a visual and tactile connection with their learning. Integrate STEM/STEAM with accommodations into your curriculum to give students access to real-life learning experiences.