All students, regardless of disabilities, have the ability to learn art. Art courses are a great chance for students with any sort of special needs to succeed in a regular classroom setting. The inherent subjectivity of art means that the majority of a student’s grade is derived from effort, completion, and time spent on task. This levels the playing field for all students. A common misconception among students is that their inability to draw realistically will adversely affect their grade. In reality, I will look more toward their effort than any other area. The goal of any special needs educator should be to compel students into succeeding at a level they didn’t think was possible.
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IDEA is an act which guarantees state funded education services to students with a variety of disabilities. While Section 504 prevents discriminatory treatment of special needs students. As an art teacher this means I’ll have several special needs students a year; and must give them the best possible environment and instruction to succeed in visual arts.
The most difficult problem for IEP students to overcome in the regular classroom is being treated differently by their peers and teachers. Art is a level playing field for all students. All students are given similar objectives and tasks, and their output will be as varied as they are. I will try to give the students as much of a chance as possible to be treated as equals to their peers. As a regular classroom teacher it will be pertinent to keep my room as unrestricted as possible for these students. Since art is often one of the few sit-down in-class settings IEP students can be unrestricted in.
The most common issue that arises in art classes, when dealing with special needs students, is keeping them on task. My central goal in dealing with IEP students is to keep them interested in their work for the majority of their time spent in my classroom. A common mistake I’ve seen is allowing them to work on easier material, like tracing cartoons, coloring, or stick figures. The problem that arises with doing this is that the student will finish too quickly. This means either a teacher will ask them to raise their volume of work, which can be stressful to the student who sees this as an extra assignment. Or the teacher elects to allow the student a lot of free time after completing an easy assignment, which will make the student bored, overly talkative, and disruptive. The way I plan to combat this issue is allowing the students to pursue a project of their choice, but encouraging them to expound on the project until it is reaches a level they didn’t believe attainable.
For example, during one of my teaching field courses, I was in an entry level art class with freshman, sophomores, and several IEP students. While the majority of the class pursued a project using natural elements like landscapes, sunsets, and animals. One IEP student wanted to draw the “Angry Birds” from the popular phone app. The project was supposed to last nearly a month, however after two days the student had already pencil transferred the birds onto a large piece of paper. I noticed her downtime and suggested that she paint her birds. She ecstatically worked at this until the end of the week. When she was at a loss for where to go from there, I suggested she draw and paint in the obstacles, slingshot, and “Angry Pigs” from the game. This series of events turned a minimal effort drawing into a piece of art based on the student’s interests that she was proud of.
As I touched on previously, there is a correlation in many young artists’ eyes of realistic equaling worthy art. I plan to disassociate my students from this ideal as much as possible. Thinking like this discourages the students because they will likely not be able to draw photo-realistically at a young age, and it also suppresses their expressive and unique artistic styles. Allowing special needs students to abstract from reality can make art more enjoyable and infinitely less stressful.
In conclusion, freedom and encouragement are key elements when dealing with special needs students. Art courses are a great opportunity for any special needs student’s to succeed in a regular classroom setting.
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