From: Susan Loesl, MA, ATR-BC
It is truly my pleasure to be the Monthly Mentor for October 2015. As an adaptive art specialist for the Milwaukee Public Schools for the past 26 years, I have had wonderful opportunities to create art side by side students with disabilities from early childhood through high school. My role is to work with art educators with students in self contained or inclusive settings who request my support--I do not have a home school, and last year went to 48 schools over the course of the school year. I see myself as a facilitator for students to access the art making process by adapting the tools, media, and techniques so that students can be as independently creative as possible. At times, this has meant creating in the moment...a hand grip from newspaper and masking tape for a too thin handle on a paintbrush or putting art materials on a Lazy Susan or cookie sheet for a student with boundary and organizational issues. Other times, such as earlier this week, I saw myself as a support staff discussing with an art educator how to adapt an urban landscape painting lesson for a class with 3 distinctly different levels of engagement. I was thrilled to see her excitement when she now couldn't wait to try the new lesson plans, as her initial contact with me was frustration in how to best reach ALL of her students. I hope to bring that excitement to you this month as we explore opportunities for engaging ALL the students in your art room.
In my work with students, I have "collected" many stories of challenges, successes, and unique happenings. I will also share those with you this month. We all have those art moments that have truly touched our lives and made us smile proudly to be art educators, as well as moments that are truly unique to the art room! I have a first grade student student who is visually impaired and each time he comes to the art room lately, he asks "what powers are we going to use today?" He at some point decided that the art tools such as scented markers and textured rolling pins are "his powers". It is really a unique perspective for such a young child, who is almost totally blind, to consider the art tools as powerful. To him, he "sees" the power he possesses to create what he wants as he can independently make choices with adapted art tools. He has become powerful in making art.
During this month, share your successes, offer support to other art educators for your experiences, and request suggestions about challenges you are facing in working with your students with disabilities in your art classes. I look forward to engaging in discussions that help you further your potential as a facilitator of art making for your students with disabilities.