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Spring 2002 Table of Contents
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Art: A Great Tool for Teaching Students with Visual Impairments

By Holly Cooper, Technology Specialist, TSBVI, Outreach

Art is something most children enjoy doing, and it does not necessarily require great vision or motor skills. There are a lot of quick and easy ways to make art activities easier for kids with visual impairments, even those who have other disabilities. When developing ideas for activities, look for things that involve more than just coloring and drawing with pencils or markers. Consider materials that emphasize texture and dimension or teach concepts and skills. Many of the traditional arts activities are appropriate if you keep some things in mind.

Make work easy to access

Make backgrounds high contrast

Consider tactile issues

Finger painting or play dough can be a great activity for many children who are not able to hold paint brushes easily. However, if they are tactilely defensive, you may need to prepare them for touching the medium with their hands.

Utilize "themes" to help build concepts

Each season generally has colors, shapes, and objects associated with it. For example, around Valentine's Day there are heart shapes, "X"s and "O"s for hugs and kisses, and the colors of red, pink, and white. A summer theme might teach concepts about water and animals that live in the water, round sand dollars and star-shaped fish, the colors blue, green, yellow and white, gritty sand and fuzzy beach towels, one fish and many fish. By repeating these colors, shapes, textures, and concepts in a variety of art activities during the season, you can help the child learn some specific concepts while they are exercising their creative muscles.

Utilize a variety of materials that emphasize different skills

You can work on developing motor skills by choosing specific materials. If the child needs to practice grasping, try using sponges or a bottle with a sponge applicator. If drawing small circles with a crayon is too difficult a task, she might be able to grasp the extra large chalk and draw bigger circles on the sidewalk. She can work on head control, reaching and grasping while lying on a therapy ball or wedge, using a potato half or corncob to stamp or roll on paint. If your child does not have enough vision to draw shapes with a pencil, can she glue macaroni, cloth, or other materials inside a raised outline made from glue that forms different shapes and patterns? If she can't use her hands to fingerpaint, can she do some painting with her feet? Practice cane skills by walking around and collecting things to make a collage. Build concepts and practice having conversations as you discuss the items you find together.

Art is a great way to keep children entertained, but it is also a great way to teach concepts and skills. As those summer days set in, make some plans to be creative with your child. You both will benefit from the experience. Invite the neighborhood children to join in as well. Creative activities done together can help build fast friendships and provide opportunities to work on important social skills.

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002