Monday, September 13, 2010

Teaching children with autism art...i am looking for advice

o.k. my fellow bloggers.... I am teaching my usual k-5 classes art, but this year I am teaching 2 autistic classes as well. This is totally new to me. The two classes are broken into a primary k-2 class and a intermediate 3-5 class. There are 6 children in each class, and 3 aids say in the room and assist the children.
I am questioning what is expected of me? What is expected of them? How do I create lessons for them? What is appropriate for their varying abilities? Can anyone out there help?? Or send me some good sites to read about ideas and information??


  1. I have a child with autism and we do tons of art at home with just minor modification..... he has sensory issues so, nothing that gets their hands dirty, and nothing that smells offensive. I did a great sand painting lesson with his class. We made a sand painting to represent something special about us. We started with a cardboard square. We used Elmer's glue that we watered down slightly and spread with q tips and pour a small amount at a time. I had basic shapes they could choose from (heart, star, shark, dinosaur) or they could choose their own thing. One child (high functioning) drew a horse. It turned out really neat! I bought a single small bag of sand and used food coloring to dye it a rainbow of shades.
    I also did a class to teach doing a self portrait. We talked about emotions and had them draw their face with a chosen emotion. These too turned out great!
    Good luck.

  2. Hi Lori,
    Thanks for stopping by to The Art of Education. I hope the hanging file works well for you! I wanted to tell you a few things about art and autism. I did an intensive study on this for some college work, and put on a camp for art and special needs.
    Amazon has a lot of books on art and autism. I have not explored them, but there is a lot of literature out there.
    1. Sensory- You will have to get to know your students before you know what kinds of sensory activities they do and do not like. Some hate clay , some love it, etc. I would say explore and find sensory activities that might be therapeutic for them.
    2. Structure- I know a lot of autistic students like a dependable schedule/structure they know they can follow. I use the PIC system with symbols to show them what comes first, what comes next, etc. If you had a common structure to the art class each time (first, then) etc, then they may like that structure.
    3. I also found some of my autistic students enjoy step by step drawing activities and like lesson with explicit directions. I know there is a time for letting them "simply create" but the more structure, the more production I seem to get out of the students.

    This is a random sampling of tips, but I think you can adapt any good lesson to these students once you get to know them better. I hope to do more posts on this in the future!


  3. thanks for your comments and suggestions. I spoke to the classroom teacher a little today to see what he had to say. he said many of the same things you both did. Please let me nkow if you hear or see anything else about teaching children with autism art. Thanks again for taking the time to write : )

  4. Hi Lori,

    I have been teaching art to kids with autism for about 10 years now, (and taught music to them before, long story....)

    Great comments above, tho it will also depend on the skill sets the kids have, (including socila/coping skills)

    I do follow a protocol for every lesson. I use a circle/greeting song, followed by a sensory activity, like lotion or bubbles, then the project, then a wind down activity, which coiuld be a story or song, bubbles again (I love the MET Museum shapes, numbers books, high quality art content but developmentally appropriate, so can be used with all ages, and also the David Carter pop up books, which I don't allow the kids to handle independantly, but they enjoy listening and looking immensely)

    I adapt just about everything, I go to Art Projects for Kids and Artsonia alot, but always have to adapt for my students. I do alot of prep!

    My biggest piece of advice is to be open to the kids, you will get a feel for them, they are visual learners after all!

  5. You're right about the sensory issues of clay and getting stuff on the hands. Often autistic children do not like that part of art. I have 3 in our building and 2 have full time aides, so they usually do the same lessons, but the aid assists them with staying on task and handling the clean up. Each child has different preferences, but I have found all three love to paint. When I have them stand and work it goes the best. Two students like working with Dura Sand. THey pack it into different sized cups and make temporary sculptures. They like knowing the order of the lesson, so if you can keep that the same it works best. If you can have a visual schedule that helps too. THey like to know the order to do things! They appreciate knowing what comes first, then next, then last!

  6. Hello,

    I recently compiled a list of the Top 20 art blogs for educators, and I just
    wanted to let you know that you made the list! It
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    Thanks so much, and if you think your audience would find useful
    information in the list or on the site, please feel free to share the
    link. The blog is just starting up, so we always appreciate a link
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    Thanks again, and have a great day!