Children and Art

  Anne’s Special Needs Classroom with Children’s Art

I love special needs children. And I love art, so I have tried to infuse my classes with art through the many years I did this work. This particular project was a call for art to cover a gas station in New York used specifically for that purpose one time. The project was a fiber arts project, 3′ x 3′ square from each group that contributed one. The project, chosen by the children, was a world with lots of hand prints on it. The world was painted onto quilt batting painted blue, and the children’s hands were hand prints they all made. The hand prints were cut out and stitched onto and around the world and each child wrote his or name on the hands. They also helped put the name of their school on the piece.

The children learned much beyond just creating art. They learned how to do a project together with minimum guidance. And they learned what it was like to have something they created go across the U.S. and got to see it online up with all the other projects. They got to have a sense of pride in doing something so much larger than their own little world. I am so glad I got to help them do this project.

All children should get to experience art, just as reading out loud to them is good for their growth too. They need to learn to be ok if they make mistakes, and to accept and appreciate the miracle of what they have made, even if it is not perfect in adult eyes. How many art projects have any of us who create art made with imperfections? Imperfections are what makes art that is truly unique and fantastic. In the same sense, special needs children are unique and amazing people with so much to offer the world. Thank you one and all, and bless each of you for the New Year and all the years that follow.

19 thoughts on “Children and Art

    1. Thank you very kindly, Roberta. I teach the way I wish I had been taught in school, and I guess perhaps that is a good way. Hugs, and I wish you the very best life has to offer for this New Year and all the New Years to follow. Anne

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  1. Nice! I’d love to hear more about their experiences with art…how did they/you approach the materials, any mishaps, insights of the kids. We can’t help but learn from the students we teach, and it sounds like yours have much to share, Anne, thank you!

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    1. Hi Joan, Based on my experiences in my own art, which I have written about on my blog in other posts. I tried very hard to prevent them from thinking anything was a mishap. Now all of these children were special needs, and so I could not often get anything out of them in the way of words as many of them really had no words. Their smiles and delight in what they were doing were quite enough for me. I made sure that there was no such thing as “The arm does not go there. That is where the head goes and we aren’t on that part yet,” a quote from a teacher who had to have everyone doing the same thing at the same time. I know that is easier for a teacher, but you have to remember that these children, most of them, are stuck in time, and unless there is some new development in science one of these days, there is only so much change we can expect. So why make their experience in art something so miserable.

      My poor little fellow started crying and tore up his creature they were creating and threw it under the table. Are figures for the teacher of things achieved really more important than giving the child an enjoyable experience? So what if the child puts the arm in the neck hole, or colors the piece totally purple, and scribbled at that. The child must have a positive experience with whatever he/she does. Otherwise, the child will not keep trying.

      I had one little poor girl whose parents messed with her drugs all the time, giving her regular doses through the week, but taking her off them on the weekends. So when the child came in Mondays, she was a mess. She would lie on the floor and scream and kick, and she would hurt anyone who came near her.

      One Monday after leaving her like this and going off with the boys to a job they did each week, the teacher left me with the girls. My car was right next to the out building, so I went and got some embroidery thread I had in different colors. I let the girl alone as I cut good lengths of all the thread and began taping them to the table by each seat. When I had it all ready (with one extra bunch next to me), I called the girls to come to the table, and began to work with them as they tried their luck at braiding the “bracelets” they were making. Within about 5 – 10 minutes, the one on the floor had gotten herself up and came and sat down next to me without a word, and was looking at her skeins of thread and those of the others. As she watched them, she began to attempt to do hers too. By the time the teacher returned, all the girls were sitting around the table laughing and enjoying what they were making, including the one next to me. The teacher could not believe it. I just knew what to do. No one had to tell me. I was a child once too. And I was a mother too. My daughter, born when I was barely 18 years young, could read very well at age 2, and I am the one who figured out ways to help her learn without any pressure. I made index cards and on one side was the word, and on the other side was the picture, and then too I would show her the thing that went with the word – something within the room that I could point to. And I would say the word. Then I would show her the word, the picture, and the thing, and encourage her to say it without pressure. Oh, and she memorized all her little Golden books, word for word and would lie in bed at night “reading to herself.”

      Anyway, when the psychologist came that week to check on the child, she saw her working happily alone on her bracelet of sorts. I suggested that she loved to do crafts, and that perhaps instead of trying to send her to work in the factory setting (which she hated with a passion and made everyone there miserable), to allow her to work on her crafts at home. Her mom could perhaps put her things on line for her for sale, even for a tiny bit. It would give her something to feel good about and at the same time, help her family. But the teacher told the psychologist that no, we could not allow that, for there was no way to measure something like crafts. So therein you have the situation and the way I handle it and the way the teacher thought was best to do. Is it really so important for these children. I don’t dislike teachers. Quite the contrary. But I do believe that special needs children for the most part are going to progress so far and that is it. Make their experience a positive one and they will go further if they can, but if not, they will be happy, and what is more important than that?\

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  2. What a lovely tale and how lucky were those children to have a teacher like you Anne but your last tale is sad as you cannot measure happiness some things cannot be put in a box to tick…Happy New Year 🙂 x

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    1. No, there are many things we have no way to measure. How much oxygen do we take in during a day, and yet it is what gives us life and for that we are happy. I think even if happiness is not measurable, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that momentary smile, that second of joy just for that brief space of time when a child knows something and feels a sense of accomplishment. No, there are many things we cannot measure, but unlike cooking (and I often don’t measure when I cook), we just have to know some things with our hearts.

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      1. We do indeed, Anne there is too much measurement in the world I think even with normal children and more to the point …What is normal..I certainly have never been that…lol…Take care xx

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    2. Hi Carol. I wish that something other than the truth could be true. Some people have made headway with working with developmentally challenged children, but there are so many more of them than when I started work. The figures are not less than 1 out of every 90 or so, and when I started it was 1 out of every several hundred. So I guess that there are things to be accomplished with environmental, physical and perhaps nutritional causes, and who knows what else. We can keep trying though, and also, we must always be encouraging and let them know that what they are doing is good, no matter how small or perhaps even incorrect it may seem by out own standards. If they feel good about what they do, chances are that they will do more each time. But if we discourage them in any way, they will definitely go backwards, and often will not try again. It should not be sad though. They are still beautiful children, and they CAN grow and change to a point. Unfortunately in many of my classes, I have seen teachers and aides as well expect too much and demand too much and put too much stress on the children to the point where it becomes a battle of the wills. And without the means to express their frustration or anger, the children resort to angry behavior of hitting, biting, and other difficult physical behavior. And the children, not knowing WHO is responsible for their anger, etc. will take it out on anyone in the area at the time, even if that person had absolutely nothing to do with their frustration. I have been punched, bitten, kicked, had my hair pulled, and other things, not because I did anything, but because I just happened to be in the wrong place at the same time. Thank you kindly and I am glad to have your thoughts. Anne always

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      1. I have unfortunately or should I say have been privileged as we have had more than one in our family who have had challenges not all still with us but who had parents and family who loved and celebrated some of their short lives and their achievements…They enriched our lifes in many ways and had an impact on all our lives thus educating their more able siblings and cousins who in turn are better for knowing them..Kind, caring children who are growing up accepting of differences which is lovely to see… The children you have nutured and loved have been lucky to have you in their lives x

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  3. I was never a normal child either, Carol. I actually got kicked out of summer bible school. The teacher had us all doing the same coloring page of Joseph and Mary making their journey. That was punishment enough, but then when I decided to spice things up by making Joseph’s hair orange, the teacher slapped my hand and told me that Joseph’s hair was brown, not orange. Well, gee, I guess I knew that. So after she said that and put that brown color in my hand, I spent the rest of the time as she stood over me trying to peel the paper off my crayon. When she turned her back, and left to go to the office to answer a call, I picked that orange up again and hurried to color Joseph’s hair orange. Then I picked up the kid scissors and began to cut my eyebrows. I guess the other children were a little bored too, for they began to cut their eyebrows too, as we all roared with laughter, and one little girl was just starting to try to cut her pigtail when the teacher walked back into the room. With a horrified look on her face, she shouted, “Who showed you to do this?” and all those innocents raised their tiny hands too, pointing to me. Well, that was the end of that. The teacher grabbed me by the hair, and pulled me down to the office (they did those things in those days) and called my mother. She told her that I had to go home and stay out of the class, for I was too much of a trouble maker. I think it was one time when somehow God performed a miracle for me. I know when I got home, I was so thrilled. Mother send me off to stay with two of my boy cousins on a farm their parents owned, and so I had a wonderful summer after all! I guess that was enough to give me a reason why I would always be a bit of a rebel when it comes to creativity. I know first-hand what it feels like to have to do creativity the teacher’s way!

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    1. Thank you kindly. Yes, these children, more than half of the class without language skills, is having fun in their own ways. I think if their days here on this plane are enjoyable and they feel good about themselves in what they do from day to day, it is good. It is not really an achievement to try to get them to be what they are not.

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  4. I don’t know you but I love who you are. It’s amazing to me when we are treated so badly as children that we turn and work with children ourselves. I’ve been in Early Childhood education for 30 years. My latest contact is working with a special needs boy who has a brain injury. I recently wrote a blog about working in my field and not being recognized for what I do. Our jobs are so unique and sometimes very hard and still not being recognized. It frustrates me to the core of my soul. I loved thirds post and so agree art is so important to child development just as reading is.

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    1. You are an amazing woman, and don’t ever believe that you are not recognized. You are a hero, an angel to those children, and in some cases, you may well be the one person who is saving them from the things that all special needs children seem to go through. Your children know what you are doing to help them, and they may not be able to say it in words, but they love you and will always remember you for what you are doing. Yes, they are difficult jobs, and sometimes we get hurt trying to do them. I have been bitten, kicked, punched, had my glasses broken and got nearly knocked out, had my hair pulled and i can’t even remember what all else and I am sure you have too. But we know that they are not really trying to hurt us, but reacting to an environment where they are frustrated for whatever reasons. One of the children I worked with had been “punished” all day by another aide, who failed to realize that the child would calm down immediately with his little face wiped with a cold washrag softly and held up to the fountain to get a cold drink and then helped to sit on the couch and a book brought out for him that I remembered he was very partial to. It took perhaps 8 – 9 minutes total and the child was quieted and quite willing to have me sit next to him and turn the pages and point to the characters and softly tell him the story. Yes, art is wonderful for all children, as is reading . I still believe in reading, writing, and arithmetic as the most important things they need to learn in the way of subjects, combined with a major dose of unsaddled creativity. Thank you kindly for what you do. Hugs, Anne

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