Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tickle Your Senses!

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.

Special Needs Application:
Children explore sensory and tactile play while learning important lessons of imaginative and symbolic thinking, enhancing motor skills, safely expressing emotions and communicating in a non-verbal format.

Messy Art is fun and provides a delightful way to learn about the world and it's physical properties. Most children love to get their hands into paint and other gooey materials that "tickle their senses." Messy art lets children discover the emotional pleasures of sensory and tactile play while they learn important lessons of cause and effect and the material properties of matter. What’s more, messy art develops important cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. Self directed learning with fluid, sensory and tactile art materials is especially important in early childhood and continues to have benefits for older children as well.

What exactly is "messy art" – is it simply fingerpainting? A lot more, actually. Messy Art is a friendly description for art experiences that involve paint and other fluid materials that change with ease as you manipulate them. These fluid "sensory art" experiences provide children with exciting physical contacts that motivate exploration. The fluid nature of paint provides for dynamic and rapidly changing explorations of color, shape and textures on paper. Children often feel very powerful when painting, because the cause and effect of their actions becomes apparent very quickly. Painting allows children to make decisions rapidly, and to operate more independently than they are usually accustomed to. Paints continuously move and blend, creating new combinations and secondary colors. With just a few swift brushstrokes, an entire painting can change and transform into a new creation. Painting is indeed, a powerful process!

Messy Art activities are one of the best ways to promote early childhood learning. Preschool and Kindergarten provide an especially important opportunity for hands-on, self-directed learning. As children grow and advance through elementary school, art continues to provide opportunities for mastery and learning. Art teaches critical thinking, self-expression, problem solving, individuality, creativity and self-esteem.

Messy Art experiences, those that rely on fluid and tactile art materials, provide children with great reward for their efforts. Not only do children often find it exciting to have the freedom to "get messy," but child development theory teaches us time and time again that tactile and sensory experiences are one of the best ways children learn. So designate an area of your room to messy art, cover tables and floors with newspaper if necessary, and find time to tickle your senses!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don Peek - Determining a Child's Disability Level

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Determining a Child’s Disability Level

While properly categorizing a child’s disability does not in and of itself help the child directly, proper classification can be useful in determining just how much help parents and teachers need to provide a child. Usually disabilities are divided into four levels:  none, mild, moderate and severe.  An understanding of the level of a child’s disability is absolutely essential when preparing that student’s IEP (individualized education program) or when helping the child to develop new skills.

It’s not enough just to know that a child has a problem seeing.  The problem might be so slight that nothing needs to be done by the school other than making sure the child sits near the front of the room so he/she can easily see material on the board.  A mild seeing problem might be remedied by wearing glasses or contacts.  A moderate problem might be dealt with by ordering large print books for the child to use.  A severe problem could entail mostly using auditory materials or actually having the child learn Braille.  In other words, the degree of the disability largely determines the amount and type of assistance the child will need.

Three children with IQ scores indicating mental retardation may lead widely different lives depending on their disability levels.  The one who is mildly retarded may live independently as an adult, hold a job, and manage his life adequately in all but crisis situations.  The one afflicted with mild retardation may be partially self-supportive in a sheltered workshop environment but will always needs supervision and need to live with family or in a group setting.  The one who is severely retarded may contribute some in a limited way to self-care, but will always need supervision and help with daily routines and will never be able to work.

We should not be surprised by these categories when applied to disabilities.  Most medical problems are classified in this same way.  While a woman will never be mildly, moderately, or severely pregnant, she could certainly have different levels of the flu, shingles, or pneumonia.  Also, as with disabilities, these ailments may call for very little in the way of medicine or assistance, or they may require visits to the emergency room or stays in intensive care.  The more severe the condition, the more help that is required by the sick person or the disabled person.

Naturally, when schools or schools with the help of doctors diagnose disabilities, it is always a difficult task to be highly specific as to the disabled person’s exact position on the spectrum.  The gauge may list none, mild, moderate, or severe as the only four categories, but there is a great deal of overlapping.  What is important with testing is to get a starting place for each individual and to treat the person with a disability as an individual.  You may have two mentally challenged students in the same classroom, but you can rest assured that they will not have the exact same skill set regardless of how close their IQ scores seem to be.

Please remember this as you work with students that have disabilities.  Every disabled person is an individual and may be very different even from others diagnosed with the very same disability.  It is vitally important that you recognize the degree of disability of each person and work with the person at that level.

Grant Info:

Grant Name:  Monell Foundation Educational Grants
Funded By:  The Ambrose Monell Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis to improve the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity throughout the world. Giving largely for hospitals and health services, scientific research, museums, performing arts, and other cultural activities, and higher and secondary education; support also for social services, research in political science, mental health, and aid to the handicapped. No grants to individuals.
Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other
Proposal Deadline:  4/30/12
Average Amount:  $5,000.00 - $500,000.00
Telephone:  212-245-1863
Availability:  All States

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Smash Painting

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Eduation.

Special Needs Application:
Perfect for children with impaired fine motor skills.

Try a new technique that kids and adults both have fun with - it's called "smash painting." Smash painting releases lots of energy and let's active children have fun making dots of splashing color. When you use a completely washable paint like Colorations® Liquid Watercolorthere's no worry about making a mess.
How to begin? First get yourself some sponge tip plastic bottles (called bingo bottles) and a variety of Colorations® Liquid Watercolor paint. Fill each bottle with a different color. You'll need white construction paper, and if you want to make a portrait like the one pictured here, you'll need markers for the details in the portrait itself. Smash painting is used for the background in the example shown.

Next, practice smash painting and develop some skill with it by experimenting on a piece of scratch paper. Simply turn your bingo bottle upside down and bang it lightly onto your paper, creating a dot with splash marks coming out from the sides. Try banging the bingo bottle lightly, then harder, and watch how your result changes. Switch colors and overlap splash marks, creating a pattern. Now try making lines and shapes with your bingo bottle and experiment with different effects you can achieve by simply dragging your bingo bottle slowly across the page. Once you've practiced and gotten a feel for your materials, you're ready for your final picture.

The picture or portrait shown here combines watercolor markers in the more controlled figure drawing, with smash painting in the background. The contrast of these two techniques makes an interesting self portrait. To create a portrait like this, first present your class with markers and have them create a central drawing of their choice - in this case, a portrait of themselves. Then demonstrate the smash painting technique and suggest they use this technique for their background. First spend practice time with smash painting. The have children return to their self portrait and smash painting the background. The painting shown here was done with a group of first grade students during one 45 minute art session.