Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Art Education for Children With Learning Disabilities

There are a large number of students who have difficulty learning material using traditional teaching methods. Learning disabilities vary from mild forms such as attention deficit disorder to more severe disabilities like autism and mental retardation. Incorporating art into the curriculum of students with learning disabilities can be a useful tool. Students with disabilities are not students who are incapable of learning but instead are students who may need material presented to them using alternative methods. Methods that incorporate art can be very successful for these children.

Many students with disabilities are separated from regular students for either part of all of the school day. These students spend a great deal of time focusing on remedial skills and learning new skills to help them catch up with the rest of the class. For students with learning disabilities the knowledge that they are not able to function at the same level as other students can be very discouraging. Introducing these students to art classes can offer them the opportunity to do something creative where success is not measured by the same standards as in regular academics. The feeling of succeeding at something can provide these students with self-worth and confidence that can carry over into other areas of study. Allowing children to be involved with art related activities also encourages creativity, problem solving skills, motor skills and other skills that are useful in all areas of academics like math, science and language.

Art lessons can be combined with traditional lessons and used as a teaching tool for these students. Children that have difficulty with verbal expression will often have more success by expressing themselves through art. Practicing expression through art may translate to better overall communication skills. Teaching math and science lessons that are hands on art based lessons also tend to hold a student's interest more than traditional lecture lessons. Sometimes just holding a student's attention is half the battle especially for students with attention deficit disorder. Activities that encourage drawing and painting can help students learn about shapes, contrast and spatial relationships. Teachers can implement lessons that use these art activities to teach basic math skills like geometry and various other math techniques. Another interesting way to teach history involves having students create plays that focus on historical events. This method can help students internalize the material as oppose to just memorizing facts from a textbook.

Teachers are often allowed to use alternative methods to assess a students skill set in a certain area when teaching a student with disabilities. Allowing students to create art projects that reflect their understanding of a concept can be a useful alternative to a traditional test. Allowing students to express creativity and learn about concepts using alternative methods is essential to development for those students who struggle in traditional settings. There are a multitude of resources available for educators who want to implement these techniques in the classroom. These methods can be useful for both students who are learning disabled and regular students. Implementation of these methods may help enable students with disabilities spend more time in a general education setting which is beneficial to their overall education. The benefits of education through art are numerous and should be implemented in the classroom whenever possible.