Teaching Art to Students with Emotional/behavioral Disorders
De Chiara, Edith, School Arts
It is not possible to learn the skills needed for teaching art to special-needs students in a few sessions of a standard art-methods course. Art education students require a separate course to teach students with specific disorders. The need for such a course is substantiated by factors such as the dramatic increase in the number of students identified as handicapped, mainstreaming, and Regular Education Initiative (REI), a movement to integrate classes of regular and special education students to better and more economically serve all students. As a result, art teachers will be responsible for the education of increasing numbers of handicapped students. The critical issue is determining the most expedient way to prepare teachers to meet this challenge.
Categories of Learners
Special-education literature generally categorizes handicapped learners as mentally retarded, physically impaired or emotionally disturbed. The category of mentally retarded can be broken down into mildly, moderately or severely retarded. The category of physically impaired can be broken down into learning disabled or orthopedically impaired, neurologically, visually or hearing impaired. Although there is no consensus for classifying the emotionally disturbed, some psychologists and educators recommended classifying them as suffering from conduct disorder, anxiety-withdrawal behavior, immaturity or socialized aggression (acting out), allowing for individual differences within each classification.
The Mainstreaming Course
In most teacher-preparation programs, a course in mainstreaming is now required for certification. This course is designed to introduce preservice teachers to the concept of mainstreaming, different handicapping conditions and the associated learning, social/emotional behavioral characteristics. The course focuses on practical methods and techniques for adapting various subject areas (math, social studies, science, language, music and art) for mainstreamed, handicapped students.
Although informative, the course has limited value. Student teachers need a course where they can gain hands-on experience with diverse populations of special-needs students, helping them to develop two important aspects of teaching handicapped students: skills and attitudes.
Art Methods for Special Education
In a course focusing on special education, each handicapping condition should be treated separately. The following format is suggested: definition and characteristics of the impairment; educational approaches; strategies for art programming; and suggested art media, materials and activities. Activities taught within each handicapping condition should address adaptation to meet group and individual needs. The following outlines emotional/behavioral disorders:
Definition and Characteristics of
This condition adversely affects students' educational and social experience and results in an inability to learn. Behavior deviates from age-appropriate norms, and range from immature or withdrawn behavior to aggressive acting out. This maladaptive behavior interferes with their development, and negatively impacts those with whom they interact, often making them social outcasts.
To be prepared to teach this population, it is critical that teachers develop attitudes different from those required for most students. It comes as no surprise that teachers with mainstreamed classes find these students to be the most undesirable. This attitude may be exacerbated by anxiety due to a lack of confidence and skills in managing these students. In this situation, skills in behavior management and adapting materials and techniques are critical.
Classroom Management. A classroom environment that is well-organized, highly structured, predictable, yet tolerant and flexible will prevent frustration and potential eruptions. …