Peer Groups

    I feel unqualified
    Miss Laura

    My background: I have a bachelor's degree in Studio Art, but
    I minored in education and theater tech. I am not a state-
    certified teacher. I was a camp counselor for 7 years as a
    teenager, and completed only some of the coursework required
    for certification. With those skills I've landed several jobs
    over the years at art museums, art camps, and private
    studios, very casual settings. I currently teach private
    lessons at a studio in central Texas; my youngest student is
    4 years old, my oldest is 76.
    Too long; didn't read. I'm not a certified teacher, but I've
    worked with kids for 8 years.

    My obstacle: I have been teaching a student for several
    months who is different from other children. It took me
    months to ask his parents what exactly his handicap is
    because they never disclosed that he is not on par with other
    children his age. I assumed, from my experience with children
    with Asperger's, that he either had some form of high-
    functioning autism, or ADHD. His parents finally confessed to
    me recently, that he is developmentally delayed.
    It makes perfect sense. He is a 9 year old boy who acts like
    he's 5-6 years old.
    -He gets distracted very easily, short attention span
    -If I take my eyes off of him for a few seconds, he'll bolt
    across the art studio and start touching other kids' fragile
    sculptures, wet paintings, students' parents' purses, things
    he should not touch. He'll pour water cups all over the floor
    and mix palettes of colors together into a gray mess that
    cannot be used. Last Friday I let him change the position of
    the little wooden mannequin we were drawing, and he ripped
    its arm off.
    -His grammar is not at the level it should be for a 9 year

    His parents came to the studio and chose me (out of the
    several art teachers available) to teach him how to sketch
    realistically. Their specific objective, verbatim, "He must
    learn how to draw things he sees in real life. No coloring.
    No painting. No cartoons. No super heroes. Only real things
    in real life."
    They want me to teach their developmentally delayed child how
    to draw in Photorealism, which is something that takes me, an
    adult with an art degree, hours to accomplish. I fear they
    are under the impression that he's an idiot savant [noun. a
    person who is considered to be mentally handicapped but
    displays brilliance in a specific area, especially one
    involving memory.]
    But he is not gifted in art of any medium that I have exposed
    him to. Against his parent's wishes, I have let him color,
    paint, make pottery in class, and construct a multi media
    sculpture of Spider-Man (we totally love Spider-Man). He
    tried to the best of his ability, and his best effort equates
    to the hard work ethic of a 5/6 year old. He is not a special
    art prodigy by any means and repeatedly tells me he hates

    I tell his parents that I am not the right teacher for him
    because I have zero training for special needs children. I
    tell his parents that he hates drawing and tells me this
    often. They reply, "Oh we know, but he needs to learn
    practical skills." I tell them that he doesn't always
    remember what I've taught him and often feel like I'm
    starting back at square one. It is currently February 2017, I
    have been working with this child for one hour after school,
    every week, since April 2016 and I feel like he hasn't
    absorbed anything I've taught him.

    His parents tell me how much he loves coming in to the art
    studio and looks forward to it every week, and they feel he's
    improving. I do not feel he's improving, I feel they need a
    one hour break from him.

    I have no idea what I'm doing "wrong", but I know that I am
    not the appropriate teacher for him. I either need some
    expert advice on how to teach a child with his condition, or
    advice on how to tell his parents I am not qualified.