I hope you had a chance to check out the resources I posted in my last blog for teaching art to special needs children. Since 1973 with the passing of the Rehabilitation Act, we have been the ones in the forefront of including students with disabilities into our art room. I vividly remember when a class of children who were Severely and Profoundly Impaired (Life Skills) were introduced into our elementary school. I had never seen children with such serious disabilities, let alone interacted with them. As I began to teach them through art, I got to know their personalities, their strengths and limitations. It was a remarkable experience that blossomed into the Masters in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations.
These days more and more children are being diagnosed with a Learning Disability, Autism and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder and they are being included in the art room. We are the ones who are teaching them as well as a classroom of “typical” children. We are beginning to stockpile relevant information, share art lessons, and get practical information through articles, conferences, and graduate courses. Here is a fantastic site for art lessons posted by Lauren Stichter. These are lessons from college students in a college course she teaches.
The Special Needs Issues Group (SNAE) of the NAEA was founded in 2001, when like-minded art educators teaching children with disabilities came together at a NAEA Conference and established SNAE. And it has been only a few years that Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has had an Arts in Special Education Topic for convention proposals. Now we, under the leadership of Beverly Levett Gerber, are petitioning the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) to establish a Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS). Just think, all of the arts under one roof where we can collaborate, and publish both research materials and best teaching practices, for children with disabilities.
We are beginning to find ways to come out of our classrooms and share ideas through the NAEA Issue Group of SNAE. Hopefully, we can bring all the arts together in CEC under the Division of Visual and Performing Arts to ensure the best arts education for all our students with disabilities.
-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia