Cognitive, physical or social-emotional challenges can at times hinder a student’s ability to use traditional art media, tools, or techniques. Adaptive art is about understanding these challenges and then meeting them head on. Through the use of specialized tools or equipment, adaptive art allows students with unique challenges to create freely and express themselves more openly, which leads to better communication and more effective learning.
Adaptive art in the classroom
Annie Dudgeon, an art educator at Beloit Turner High School in Beloit, Wisconsin, has made adaptive art an important part of her classroom.
“It is always a goal of mine as an art teacher to meet the needs of my students while at the same time helping them to grow into strong, culturally diverse, empathetic, and resilient humans,” Dudgeon explains. “By incorporating adaptations into art curriculum, we allow students with special needs to feel a sense of empowerment, independence, and pride. We give them a vehicle to express themselves, advocate for themselves, and show us the things within them that they often times cannot otherwise express.”
Dudgeon finds it helpful to use adaptive art practices with all of her students, including students without unique challenges. One method she finds particularly helpful is having her students wear Fatal Vision® goggles while working on a particular piece of art. Though these specialized goggles were developed to educate students on the effects of drinking alcohol through simulated impairment, in Dudgeon’s classroom the goggles help students understand the challenges faced by individuals with visual impairments.
“When I flip my classroom to demonstrate what it’s like to be an artist with a disability, it has a different effect,” says Dudgeon. “Students discover and learn the challenges that they themselves may not face regularly as an artist. They’re forced to understand limits through their own experiences, and this supports their growth as diverse and culturally respectful individuals.”
Watch the video below to learn more about adaptive art tools and how to incorporate them in your classroom.