SchoolArts Magazine

MAY-JUN 2007

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Meet ing I ndivi dua l N eeds Practical Considerations for Teaching Artists with Autism Gillian J. Furniss I ntheUnitedStates,thelikelihoodthatanartteachermay teachachildwithautismin aninclusiveclassroomishigh, sinceoneoutofevery166children inthecountryisdiagnosedwith autism.Federallawmandatesthat everychildhastherighttoafree andappropriateeducation.Some childrenwithautismhaveexceptionalartisticabilitiesandaremainstreamedintoartclassroomswith typicallydevelopingchildren.The challengefortheartteacherishow todesignauniversalcurriculum thataccommodatesthelearning abilitiesofallstudentsandtoassess themaccordingly. teacheristoaccuratelyassesswhat thechildwith autismhaslearned. An example of depicting visual subject matter is this drawing by twelve-year-old Robert Cohen of his favorite character from TempleGrandin the Disney movie TheLionKing. Robert Cohen has Asperger's statesinherbook Syndrome. aboutherlifewith autism,Thinking seatfortheentireschoolyearif in Pictures,that theysochoose.Forexample,achild manyindividualswithautism withautismwhoishypersensitive thinkinvisualimagesratherthan tosoundmaypreferachairthatis inlanguage.Manyindividualswith locatedinaquietcorner. autismchoosesubjectmattersuch asobjectstheyseearoundthem,or CurrentResearch peopleandobjectstheywatchon Currentresearchonautismhas thecomputerscreen,television,or implicationsforartteacherswho inamoviewhenmakingart. havechildrenwithautismintheir classroom.AstudybyLindaPring VisualLearning andNeilO'ConnorofGoldsmith GatheringInformation Individualswithautismhave CollegeintheUnitedKingdomconItiscriticalfortheartteacherto impairmentsinabilitiescontrolled cludedI.Q.testscoresandartistic gathervaluablesourcesofinformabycentralexecutivefunctionsuch abilitiesarenotdependent.This tionwhendesigningartlessons. asplanning,problemsolving,and resultimpliesthatartteachers Individualssuchasteacheraides organizing.Theywillbenefitif shouldnotassumethatachildwith andparentsknowthebehaviorof visualaidsareprovidedtohelp autismisnotatalentedartist.Stethechildwith themstayon phenWiltshire,themostcelebrated autismfrom The challenge is how to design tasksuchas Britishchildartistwithautism, aprevious whatartmatea universal curriculum that hadanextremelylowI.Q.Astudy schoolyear rialshouldbe accommodates the learning byAmiKlinandhiscolleaguesat andoutside usednext.For abilities of all students. YaleChildStudyCenterconcluded oftheschool example,anart thatindividualswithautismprefer environment. teachercould tolookat—implyingtheyprefer Asktheseadultsquestionssuchas: holdupapairofscissors(orapictothinkabout—inanimateobjects Whatarethischild'sfavoritesubject tureofone),whileatthesametime ratherthanpeoplewhenviewinga matter,artmaterials,andartmedia? tellingstudents"Nowit'stimeto movie. Doesthischildmakeartathome? useyourscissors." Howlongandhowoftendoesthe Resources childmakeartandwithwhom? CreatingaRoutine Grandin,Temple.Thinking in PicManychildrenwithautismneeda tures.Vintage,1995. IntroducingLessons routinesotheycanconcentrateon Whenintroducinganartlesson,an learningwithoutbecomingoverGillian J. Furniss is a doctoral student in artteachershouldgiveaspecific whelmedwithprocessingnewsenexampleofsomethingthestudent soryinformation.Letthechildwith the art and art education department at Teachers College, Columbia University, in knowsfromhisorherownlife autismknowaheadoftimewhen New York City. gjf12@columbia.edu experience,ideallysomethingthat theywillhavetodosomethingnew. WEb LINks isofgreatinterest.Thispointis Artstudentswithautismshould www.autism-society.org criticalsincethegoaloftheart beallowedtoremaininthesame 6 SchoolArts May/June2007

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