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>Did I ever pose a question which struck a nerve with a lot of you!
>Actually I have many special ed kids mainstreamed in and often I don't
>even know that they are special ed for months. As mentioned by several
>members, the learning disabled students often do as well--or
>better!--than the regular ed kids. My own personal philosophy for that
>phenomenon is that they are visual learners and the art room is a place
>where they shine!
Many times the kids who have difficulty with abstract symbolism, such as
letters and numbers, are very strong in the visual/spatial intelligence.
Sometimes the art teacher can offer them opportunities to translate
something visually to make sense of it which helps their other "academic"
skills progress. Drawing should be the precursor to reading, writing and
computation, not just the expression of it. In early ed. students need
opportunities to draw, name and verbalize about their symbolism to help
develop their thinking. I wish special ed. teachers, pre-school and
kindergarten teachers would avoid ditto and xerox images and use it to
celebrate what their kids can do that is developmentally appropriate. By
giving them the pre-copied images they are telling the kids that their
images aren't good enough or important. It's important to validate their
drawing by recognizing their thinking. Many times what looks strange to us
makes perfect sense if we listen to the kids explain it.
But I have two little guys who are just not
>developmentally ready for the lessons I am giving. One is greatly
>helped by his neighbor, who I just recently found out is also in special
>ed--and I didn't know it! (I just joined this school in January) It is
>a beautiful thing to watch the helper teach the other child, so maybe
>the situation is OK after all. I was feeling guilty that I relied so
>much on this other child to help me teach, where in reality, I now think
>"Nick's" teaching is making him learn the concepts so much better. And
>it's obvious that he enjoys it and it's not a burden. Whatever works.
Peer mentoring strengthens both children. Good for you for doing it. Gotta
build on their strengths.
>But at my other school poor little "Andy" is in the preschematic stage
>(early) and gets very frustrated by what I ask the first graders to do.
>Then he wanders the room and we've had a few battles, he thinks I don't
>like him, etc. He is really a sweet kid one on one. I've decided not
>to push him so hard to produce. Most of the "art" that I've seen done
>in the special ed classrooms is not what I would call "art"--color the
>ditto kind of things. I don't know how to adapt my lessons for him.
Why not introduce him to abstract art with the focus on mood, color
arrangement, etc., giving him a theme to consider in his own work? He may
never be able to do as everyone else, but neither did Einstein. If he is a
wanderer, maybe set up a station where he can stand and move. Sometimes a
little background music helps "ping pong balls in wind tunnels" to focus and
they find it easier to move in a limited space than not at all. I have
taught special ed., senior citizens and toddlers and a little "lets pretend"
sometimes helps. I had one 80 something woman who couldn't paint seated,
but when I removed chairs, played swing music and set up easels, her work
was phenomenal. Everyone else benefitted too.
Do you have "sharing times" that allow students to express verbally what
they attempt visually, also helping you to understand them? I always found
that helped me be a more effective teacher.
>I have also taught art to a self-contained autistic class where there
>were about eight kids, three aides and me. We had two kids each and we
>were BUSY! Often the aides would "do" the project for the kids. So I
>tried to rotate among the kids, keep my mouth shut, and be happy for
>small miracles--and we had a few! I came to love those kids very much.
>When they were successful at a new skill it was so rewarding.
It took me years to realize that I was the teacher, in charge of the
curriculum and student direction. Aides are there to assist you and the
students. You are the boss. You have to assert yourself and your
expectations of them, no matter how intimidated you are by their years of
experience, age, or whatever. Sometimes it helps to type and copy your
expectations for any aide who works with your program so you're not
targeting one person. Before you begin a class, sometimes it helps to take
the aides aside briefly and tell them what you hope to accomplish on the
given day, and what your lesson is designed to accomplish. You have to tell
them that the interactive process between staff and students is more
important than the end product. Many people have the idea that art is about
making "pretty" and try to live up to their false expectation so you have to
change the focus.
>I now have a gifted class--ten kids, K-5th, not necessarily gifted in
>art. Some have behavioral problems, but actually they are great fun to
>In many cases mainstreaming is the best way to go for both teacher and
>student, but when it's not working I would just like a little support
>from the special ed teachers. All I'm asking for is an appropriate
It's easier to develop at least one strong advocate among the special ed.
staff to back you up and help you than to try to get all of them to help
you. They, as a staff, will follow the leader too.
>Thanks for all the feedback. Once again the collective wisdom of the
>members of the listserve has helped me think through a problem. I love
Marcial, hope this wasn't too long and that it at least gives you something
to think about, even if you don't agree with it. What works well for one of
us may not work well for all of us, but at least sharing gives us a chance
to adapt ideas to our own needs. Keep at it, a concerned teacher is a
learning teacher. Good job!!! Linda K.