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Any Experince Teaching Those With Special Needs ?


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I am considering changing carriers. I have the opportunity to start a camp for people with special needs. I thought of incorporating pottery therapy into the camp curriculum. The whole idea of the camp is a bit overwhelming, but really exciting.

 

Any thoughts or experiences?

 

Jed

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Both my girlfriend and I have a little experience.  I volunteered a bit working with some kids with special needs.  She's a massage therapist and spent a bit of time working with kids with spastic cerebral palsy.  The consistent themes for both of us were that it was a day by day experience, some days were absolutely wonderful, others were very trying.  When stuff went wrong, everything went wrong and things could go wrong in seconds.  A solid 85% of the time things were great, though.

 

Depending on the group of kids you're working with, pottery therapy could be ideal.  It's a highly rewarding thing for anyone to play with clay and then have that clay frozen in time for you.  The one challenge I see is what do to when things go wrong.  Clay isn't exactly the simplest material to clean up, it's rather dirty, and the dust is a hazard.  If you can figure out a good set of protocols for dealing with problems that may arise, I think you could have a great success there.

 

Sounds like a potentially rewarding opportunity.  You do really cool things, Jed.

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I taught art n the public schools for 32 years.  There were always some special needs kids integrated into regular class rooms or sometimes i had a special needs class.  Depending on their level of disability you need a high ratio of staff to students. Sometimes one to one. I found many of the special needs students did not the feeling of getting their hands dirty so we did things like covering a slab of clay with "press n seal" wrap and pressing the slab into a study paper plate then pressing in found objects for texture. Others would just dive right in and get muddy. Most had poorer fine motor skills  so projects need to be well thought out to avoid student frustration. Clean up is mostly on the staff so it is high maintenance. Most all the students were thrilled with a finished piece of glazed and fired work that they could say " I did this!"

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As others have said, things can get ifffy quickly. Special needs students, are just that, and as such need lots of understanding supervision. I taught HS for 36 yrs. and almost always would have one or two students with special needs. I was a little bit of an SOB in that when I had this type of student in with my regular classes, I required an aide. This was to handle those times when I would be working with others students far from the special needs student.  Every special needs student that came into the ceramics room had individual needs that required a bit of adjustment on my part for them to have a successful experience.I had many times when tools would have to be adapted for handicapped students, or times when other procedures had to be worked out for these students. I nearly always got one other student to help out by helping with joins, wedging clay, etc.

 

This sort of endeavor can be very enriching and gratifying. However, it is not to be considered a lark, as you will definitely work harder than you thought possible, have more fun than you thought possible, and cry a lot of tears.

 

Good luck. . .

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I currently have a Gr. 10 class with 4 special needs students. I have one E.A[educational assistant.]

One boy has severe anxiety issues. I have him working in a corner at a table by himself on a long-term project. He arrives late everyday, if at all. I used to have to reopen the register to mark him late, but now I just get him to walk down to the attendance office himself.

I have one boy who has to dance around and draw attention to himself. He's a pretty good artist though.

Two girls just kind of passively do whatever they are assigned. All will get a modified credit. We are currently drawing realistic facial features on black paper with pastel.

I also did a unit with SLP kids for four Fridays in a row on my prep. The class came with 7 E.A's. We did under the sea with plasticine on matt board. They loved the project and I will be putting their work in the show case when I get a second.

The students were great-so happy to be in the "real" art room. They are not scheduled for art normally. I did the class to thank them for collecting 2,572 plastic water bottles consumed from Sept. to Jan. to show the shocking amount of plastic we throw away.

TJR.

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I have had plenty of experience, with special needs students, in my class.  The biggest problem is, that it's difficult to plan for, in advance.  Each student will be a little different, in terms of what they are capable of, and what they are comfortable with.  For instance, I once had a student with Autism.  With two-dimensional work, he was quite good.  He could focus very well, and had an eye for detail.  When it came to three-dimensional work, he also did pretty well.  Both myself and his Special Ed instructor, were not sure how he would do with clay, but overall there were no issues.  I wasn't going to have him try the potter's wheel, but his aid told me, he wanted to give it a shot.  Less than five minutes in, he wanted no more of that.  So he was just excused from that project.

 

I've also had a couple students with Down's syndrome, who needed one on one, a lot of the time.  Sadly, the Special Ed room, didn't always send an Associate with them.  As it turns out, I either had a student helper those times, or some of the other classmates, were nice enough to help the student out.  It was all worth it though, as the special needs students were always so happy, seeing their projects come out.  

 

I did have at least one time, where the student had a fairly profound disability (in a motorized chair, non-verbal, limited arm movement).  In cases like that, they are there mostly for the socialization with the other students.  Because clay is too messy, in those situations, I have purchased, or had the Special Ed department, purchase Play-Doh or Silly Putty.  That way the student is still getting that tactile sensation, without getting everywhere.

 

Generally, I just have the special needs students, do as many of my standard projects as possible (pinch, slab, coil).  But some things will be more difficult, if it is a whole class of special needs students, as opposed to just a few mixed in with the general study population.  

 

I would suggest making general plans, because things will change, once you figure out how much the campers can do.  I would also inquire, to see how many helpers, aids, etc you'll have with you.  Because you will need all the help you can get, to make sure the campers get the most out of the experience. 

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I appreciate the imput. Thanks pres. I understand about not starting this on a lark. The project is the entire camp. The vision is to welcome weekly a different group. One week it might be kids with cancer, the next kids with diabetes or autism spectrum disorder. The next week might be disabled vets, etc.

 

This has been a dream of mine for many years, yet I am very apprehensive. it is a huge project.....

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Taught art at a Salvation Army centre for 6 years and to other community art projects for another 5 to special needs adult groups.....the best and the worst of people in one room at any one time!!....but overall it was a great time! I do love that work.

 

The 'trick' was to match the activity with the 'issue'....over 55s usually had problems with vision, hands and mobility so we decided on simple card making for family and friends, for unemployed people with $$$ issues we focussed on 'recycled' art making, for disability children we painted flowerpots and tiles, etc. The 'trick' also was to remember that I was not training them to be 'potters' in our limited time but to have an enjoyable clay experience that would bring a smile of delight.

 

With the actual pottery projects we made things easier for ourselves and the clients,as best we could, by choosing projects that didn't require a second firing if possible.........to prepare for making, load and unload a bisque fire, prepare to decorate and load and unload a glaze fire for 10-25 people is a lot of out-of-class-time technical work in one week.....so unless we got people who specifically wanted a cup, bowl, or plate to eat from then we made things that could be painted with acrylics and sealed with a waterproofing enamel spray.......easier for us....immediate gratification for the client!!  (Did use self hardening clay at times too)

 

Specifically for children, they mostly want to model things anyway so we concentrated on making characters for their favourite stories, garden creatures and plantings signs, plaques for bedroom doors, pencil pots.....   Painting with acrylics was already 'understood' by them in their school life so the 'dangers' of eating underglaze, and getting them to understand that, was avoided.......and they could take their treasures home with them straight away.

 

Whatever you decide to do remember to make it easier on yourself.....week in, week out of high needs clients can take it out of you no matter how great they are....and if you're taking on the whole camp......??? then you really need to make things easier. Good luck, is a great project!

 

Irene

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 I did the class to thank them for collecting 2,572 plastic water bottles consumed from Sept. to Jan. to show the shocking amount of plastic we throw away.

 

 

And then you promptly threw the bottles away....

 

Right. They were collecting fruit flies and were stinking. They were in the other art teacher's room. She wanted them outta there. We recycled them.

T.

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<snip> The vision is to welcome weekly a different group. <snip>

 

With a weekly schedule, you may need to consider the "paint a pot model" where the campers  pick out ready made bisque items to be decorated/glazed and then fired. Going from wet clay to finished product in a week is a challenge in an of itself. 

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