The Importance of Art in Special Education

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At Education Alternatives, we believe that art and special education should always go hand in hand. All students benefit from various art forms being a part of their curriculum, and students with special needs are no exception. From historical examples of artists with special needs to the benefits of art in the classroom, it is evident that all students should be afforded the right to practice art as a part of their education.

A Brief History of Art and Special Education

Some may wonder whether or not a student with special needs can be successful in art. Aside from the fact that there is no “good” or “bad” art, history shows us that art is a completely viable avenue for professional achievement and creative expression for people with disabilities. 

  • Georgia O’Keeffe was famous for her paintings of flowers, animal bones, and landscapes. She painted beautiful images and drew inspiration from her time in the American Southwest. O’Keeffe also struggled with depression throughout her life, and she eventually went blind. However, that never stopped her from creating. After going blind, she turned to sculpting.

  • Stephen Wiltshire is known for drawing detailed, panoramic cityscapes with a pen. Wiltshire is also autistic, and his art allows him to focus and create impressive pieces.

  • Peter Longstaff is a farmer turned painter. He creates incredible paintings of nature, and he does it all with his feet! Longstaff has a congenital anomaly that caused him to be born with no arms.

Benefits of Art for Students with Special Needs

Art is incredibly beneficial for all students, with no exceptions. In particular, though, students with special needs can benefit in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

  • Art promotes freedom of creative expression, which helps students to relax and think differently.

  • Anyone can make art, and there are so many different art forms, which helps students with special needs gain independence, confidence, and self-esteem.

  • Many students who may not excel in academics often find that they do excel in the arts. Allowing students to explore different mediums can help them discover hidden talents.

  • No disability can exclude a student from participating because there is always a way for inclusion.

What Teaching Art to Special Needs Students Looks Like

When we consider art for special needs students, it may be daunting to imagine how some students overcome their disabilities to create art. However, with the appropriate materials and instruction, art is truly a possibility for every student.

Blind or vision-impaired students will need help focusing on what they can hear and touch during art class. Teachers can help by describing all the materials in front of them as well as techniques they might use. Additionally, it can be helpful to focus on art forms that require lots of touch, like finger painting or sculpting.

Conversely, deaf or hearing-impaired students will need to focus on visual instruction. Demonstrating how to use materials or allowing these students to watch others create art will help them find their own stride in art class.

Students who may be physically unable to hold a utensil or mold clay themselves can still participate in art as well. A teacher or aide can come alongside them and follow their instruction to create the piece of artwork they are imagining.

At Education Alternatives, you can rest assured that we will work with each of our students to provide them with the opportunity to create art. We believe that art is just as beneficial as other academic subjects, and we will work with our students to give them a creative outlet.

Contact Us

If you have further questions about our services and how we can help students with special needs, please reach out to us by completing our contact form. You can also email us at or call us at (216) 332-9360.

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