Teaching Art to Children with Special Needs: AME 056



There is a huge effort to mainstream children with special needs but often teachers have no formal training in the special needs area. Debi London experienced this first hand as an art teacher and as a mother of a child with autism how important it is to be aware of the small things a teacher can do to create a warm, nurturing and inspiring environment for all children.

This episode is for art teachers seeking inspiration and guidance from another art teacher who has walked the walk. Learn how Debi approaches her lessons, how she sets up her classroom to accommodate all learners and the resources that have made a difference to her.


  • Helpful tips for helping you to create an art program that is accessible for all children
  • Why it’s important to know the specific needs of all your children, including their likes and dislikes
  • How a sensory center in the classroom can be used to benefit children with special needs
  • How it’s ok to teach at different paces to accommodate specific learning speeds
  • Why you need to be aware of and consider each child’s attention span
  • How to juggle the needs of all students while maintaining positive reinforcement




1. Provide a Sensory Center- The student should have access to a sensory sand box (kinesthetic sand is a great option), Lego, blocks, larger paper for coloring or stamping, access to iPads with head phones (students can be noise sensitive).  Rain sticks can be soothing. A few bean bags on floor, a small carpeted area and access to a few stuffed animals. Allow movement like: walking and stretching to meet needs.

2. Be understanding of some students because they are unable to fully focus because they: fidget, flap (stem). Allow them to have access to these things at the sensory center area as usage of items will help the flow of teaching art.

3. Soft classical music helps to create a calming environment.

4. Allow for breaks (sometimes a timer helps).

5. Get to know the students. Find out likes and dislikes to avoid a meltdown.

6. Pair students with friends or pair with one-on-one help from teacher.


Monsters Love School Lesson

Eric Carle’s Website

Special Artists Handbook: Art Activities and Adaptive Aids for Handicapped Students by Susan Rodriguez and Paul D. Blumenthal(affiliate link)

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete (affiliate link)

Sesame Street: Meet Julia Video

What is Autism?


What do you think?

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  • Debi London

    I want to thank Patty for interviewing me and for letting me share my story.

    • Patty

      You were awesome Debi! Thank you!

  • Gloria Mathews

    I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. You are awesome Debi! What a patient and kind teacher you are. I appreciate your ideas, suggestions and I LOVE the idea of those little sensory boxes. So fun! What lucky children to have you in their corner.

  • Jill Hatcher

    I’ve been listening to as many of Patty’s wonderful podcasts as I can possibly squeeze in. How to do I get the notes she talked about in the #52 podcast for using tempera paints? I love what she said and have listened 3 times, but I need her suggestions in print so I can follow my clearly and use her suggestions. Even though I’m a professional artist and have been teaching art for more than a quarter of a century, I’m still learning all kinds of new techniques from Patty. Thanks for your help!

    • Patty

      Hi Jill,
      I don’t have transcripts for my podcasts but that’s something I’m thinking of doing. There are a few posts that you can click through (Show Notes) that help explain the techniques. Just go back to the podcast page and scroll to the bottom to Shownotes. Then, click on the hyperlinks. https://www.deepspacesparkle.com/3-techniques-try-tempera-paint-ame-052/

  • Grace Cook

    I was so excited to see this message I’m a special education teacher and have experience in applied behavior analysis. I’ve been a special education teacher for 12 years and worked in various environments but always feel like art is calling me so I would love to combine my love of art and special education experience to teach art to children and adults with special needs. I think art could also be a powerful tool and outlet for parents and siblings too. It was an amazing podcast and I would love to help others if they need help adapting cirrculum or making modifications for their students. I am hoping to someday soon make the leap to teaching more private art lessons and maybe eventually specializing in teaching art to special needs children and adults who knows maybe one day I’ll open a studio. Thank you for your podcast it is a true inspiration and keeps my dream alive daily of how I can be an art teacher to my kids, my students and even those in my neighborhood!

    • Debi London

      What a beautiful comment Grace Cook. You can do it!

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