12 Tips to teaching art to special needs children:
1. Create different levels of lessons since special needs kids have such a wide range of abilities.
2. Know what each student can do—who can cut with scissors, who needs help and who needs a special pair of scissors.
3. Use pre-cut shapes if needed.
4. Keep the projects under 15 minutes, since that’s their typical attention span. Plan more than one activity for each period.
5. Use different textured materials such as sandpaper, felt, fake fur, and cotton to keep the kids interested. It especially works with children who are severely and profoundly impaired since they respond to touch.
6. Do hand-over-hand with SPI kids. For autistic children, you can have them trace over a pattern.
7. With SPI kids especially, talk directly to them to respect their humanness.
8. For SPI kids, touch them, telling them that they look pretty. Treat them with the same respect and courtesy that you show your other students.
9. Respect an autistic child’s need to avoid touch and eye contact. It’s easier for you to adjust your behavior than for them to adjust their own.
10. Glitz and flash are also good. Go for mirrors or glitters or shiny papers. However, be careful—some children will try to eat anything.
11. Use non-toxic materials. Make sure the glue is edible. Butterscotch pudding makes a great finger paint.
12. Go for tactile projects: mold salt and flour dough, make hand prints and fingerprints.