Mar 6, 2017
On 2/22/17, Miss Laura wrote:
> 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.
For early childhood special ed, the goal for the teacher is to
find an idea or activity that the child is interested in and
then just expand on that. It's self directed in this way. So
if the child likes working with clay, and the child's IEP
calls for him to learn his letters or numbers, you can try
making latter and numbers out of worms of clay. I have an art
license and early childhood special ed. I would advise the
parents that you would like a copy of his IEP, or whatever
they are calling it in your area. The activities could be
appropriate to the IEP goals, not necessarily what the
parent's want. I understand your frustration and have totally
been there, with parents expecting miracles in an hour.