MEETING INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
Making Art Special
Here’s the art room. Let’s go in.
Here’s our table. Let’s sit down.
the artroom for an entire class period.
This gradual transition was suggested
by the special educators in my building and proved to be very effective.
The professionals in your building can
be an excellent resource to guide you
through this process.
Here’s Mrs. Shafton.
Let’s listen to her.
Have your supplies ready, troubleshoot
your lesson ahead of time, consider
seating arrangements, assess the appropriateness of the materials you are
using, consider the simplicity of your
directions, and look at the vocabulary
you will be using. Taking the time to
think through these important factors
can help identify potential problems
and lead to success for your students.
Have a couple of lessons ready, as some
students can move through activities
more quickly than expected. Have free-choice activities ready, too, so you can
Depending on the particular challenges facing your students, you will
probably need a variety of art supplies.
For example, there are some suppliers
who offer special spring-loaded scissors
that will be helpful to students who
have difficulties with
fine motor skills. There
are also rolling scissors
that are safe and can be
very helpful. Chubby
crayons, pencils, and
brushes are excellent for
students with fine motor
limitations, as are universal cuffs with
Velcro to assist with holding supplies.
Check with the special educator and
physical or occupational therapist in
your building for suggestions on what
supplies would be most beneficial to
the special-needs students in your art
Social stories are
books created to
new to students
When we are done working we wash
our hands at the sink.
The artroom is an amazing, visu- ally stimulating place filled with a variety of materials, some of which students with
disabilities should not touch for their
own safety and that of other students’
artwork. Here are a few suggestions to
prepare your classroom for your students and your students for the room.
Helen Goren Shafton
First, think about safety. If your room
is disorganized, reorganize it so there
is a large area that is free of dangerous
materials and objects, that allows students to move about freely.
Introduce the idea of coming to the
artroom and behaving appropriately
through the use of a social story. Social
stories are books created to explain
something new to students with disabilities. These books are particularly
useful with students on the autism
spectrum, but they also work well with
any group that struggles with change
For one social story, I photographed
the entire process associated with
going to the art classroom and making
art. The final story included photos of
students lined up at their classroom
door, the artroom door, me
in my apron, their table
in the artroom, art sup-
plies, students working
at a table, the clean-up
sink, free-choice activi-
ties, rewards, and students
lined up to leave the art-
room. The caption for each picture was
simple and brief, such as “It’s time for
art. Let’s line up at the door.”
When we finished reading the social
story, we actually went to the room for
a tour. When we walked into the art-
room, students sat down at their tables
without being asked. That made me
We repeated the process a few more
times, encouraging students to take
individual tours of the room and look
at materials up close. The following
week, students were ready to come to
Helen Goren Shafton is an elementary
art teacher at District 89 schools in Glen
Ellyn, Illinois, and is the author of Making
Art Special: A Curriculum for Special Education Art (CreateSpace, 2010).