Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More brain picking... your ideas/advice please?

I have a student, a 3rd grade boy, with CP. He's a nice kid, all boy, happy and enthusiastic and likeable. The right side of his body is affected by the CP. He wears a brace on his right leg, walks with a distinctive gait, and his right arm is essentially useless, flopping around and getting in the way. He is also blind in his right eye, though I didn't know that until today. (Wouldn't that be something that perhaps someone would have mentioned to the art teacher?) He's a bright boy, and while he has an IEP and goes for OT, he is not a kid who needs a 1:1, like some of my more severely handicapped students.

Up till now, I haven't had to adapt much for him. He cuts somewhat OK, and is a messy-ish painter, but not too bad. I always make sure he has paint/water on his left or he ends up flopping his bad arm into stuff and knocking it over. He never complains. His parents, rightly so, want him to learn to do stuff independently and not rely on help from others. Ironically, his parents were also my students! They are very young parents, raising 3 great kids. His mom was an exceptionally bright student and a talented young artist, and they are doing a great job as parents.

Anyhow - I said I wanted advice. We are making papier-mache masks in grade 3. He was not able to tear or cut tape for assembling his mask armature, and did something he has never done before - asked for help. He cut what was needed and held stuff in place while I taped, which meant I was doing it FOR him, and not available for the other students. We got the armature done, but next is the papier-mache, which is to me a very 2-handed process. I spoke to the teacher and his OT and also our special ed administrator, who suggested that I ask the network of art teachers I know, in other words, YOU, my blogger-friends! Why hadn't I thought of that myself?

He has art tomorrow, and we're going to start to "do the goo", so here's what I'm thinking so far: I'm going to anchor the project to a surface so that it will stay in place. I'm thinking that maybe I'll put a thin layer of papier-mache paste on some newspaper in a flat tray, and let him rub his newspaper strips on it to saturate it. I don't know if it will work, but I'm at a loss for other ideas. What's your experience with a student like this? What do you do/not do? How do you adapt to help him succeed? What can I be doing to help him with his independence?

Thanks in advance, because I know you are going to have some great ideas!


  1. Awww! I'm not sure that I have the greatest advice, but I'm really passionate about brainstorming ways to make art accessible for everyone. . .

    1. I really like your idea of anchoring his papier mache structure. Have you thought of giving him a semi-permanent space for this project so you don't have to de-anchor and then re-anchor for when he leaves and then returns to art class?

    2. It doesn't sound like he has a whole lot more of constructing to do for this project. . .But do you think it would help a student with CP to have pre-cut all the tape for him and have it sticking off the edge of his table for him?

    3. Would having an extra tool make it easier or harder for your student? Could he use a paintbrush to smear his paste around? My idea is that you could pre-coat his construction with a thin layer of paste and then allow him to stick paper strips onto the structure. Then, since you said he can wield a paintbrush, allow him to dip into the paste and then rub the paste around on his items. You may have to return once/twice to re-coat his project or you could as a friendly neighbor student to re-coat as he needs it.

    And, if you have permission from the parents, have you considered lightly masking-taping a brush to his hand? I've noticed some CP students tend to grip things really tightly so as to off-set any unwanted drops due to jerking. Another avenue would be to wrap lots of tape around the handle of the brush to make an extra thick gripping surface for him. I've seen both of those methods used with success.

    4. My local middle school has a "helping hands" project (I can't remember what they call it). Where students can volunteer to help the special abilities students during "specials electives." The students attend their regular electives, but get extra time after-school to spend with students who may spend some-all of the school day in a pull-out setting but whom also attend Specials. The volunteer students learn how to aid the special abilities students and then the admin makes sure they all get assigned to the same Specials classes at the same time.

    I had a visit to the art classroom on the day this group came to class. It was really amazing. While the volunteer group of students still participated in the project, they also sat near their special abilities peers and aided them with things they might need.

    For example, when students were instructed to get up and move about the classroom for materials, the volunteer students automatically got these items for students who had mobility restrictions.

    It was **very** cool because everybody got to have art and at the same time everyone learned a little bit about compassion and how we are all special and important. I also really liked how included the special abilities kiddos were and how empowered they felt due to the small aid given to them by peers.

    Whew. That was a long harping! lol.

    So, maybe there is a student who could sit next to your CP student and empathetically aid him in small ways (in no way replacing your aid etc. etc.).

    5. I know you are a papier-mache master, so I kinda cringe to say this but have you considered allowing your CP student to use liquid starch instead of paste? Because of liquid starch's viscosity, it may be easier for him to spread successfully for papier-mache. And, it is also easier to clean up for him and the class in the event that some gets tossed about.

  2. I don't have much to add to your ideas and the above suggestions. I do generally encourage kids to help each other during papier mache projects, so my first inclination would be to have a really capable, caring student sitting next to him ready to lend a hand.

  3. I was also thinking a paintbrush would be good for him. You can use modeling clay around the handle to make it larger and easier to grip. It also allows him to mold the handle to his hand, which is nice. I have a similar child, with limited mobility in his left arm due to a stroke enutero. I offer to put his projects on a clipboard and/or tape them to the table when I see the paper moving. He also doesn't like to ask for help, but is getting better. Honestly, I also try to plan projects that can easily be done with one hand for his grade level. His peers are also very good at helping him out whenever needed.

  4. I think that if you have him smear the goo on the project first and then add the paper strip one at a time and then smooth it down with one hand so that it's saturated, that it should work. Anchoring the piece would be helpful too. What if you placed it in a shoebox so it won't roll around and he can then turn it as needed?GOod luck!

  5. I too, hesitate to chime in, because my paper mache' projects are nowhere NEAR as awesome as yours. I've never had a CP kid, but I do have some pretty severe special needs guys - my favorite way is to quietly make a "team" (sometimes without telling the special needs kid) of nice, caring kids (three, maybe, or four) that "keep an eye out" for what they might be able to do to help. They will come to me and ask for tape, take turns smearing paste, holdign the project, ripping paper etc. I try to be sure nobody's project gets neglected, but have pretty good success that way. Often they will come and quietly suggest a way we might enable, and it's usually better than what I might think up.

  6. Thanks everyone, you're the best! He actually had a great day in art today. I anchored the mask to a tray, and taped the tray to a table so it wouldn't move. His OT teacher came in for a little while and observed and I think had her eyes opened a bit, since I don't think she'd ever been in my crazy art room before.

    My papier-mache process is a little different; we dip fingertips in the goo and rub it on the palms of our hands. He actually wanted to try this, so it was really good for him, forcing him to use his bad hand a bit. And I used the suggestion to give him a paintbrush - a short thick bristle brush, and it helped also. He used it w/his good hand and doesn't need any accomodations for it. I encouraged him to use his good hand as much as possible, massaging each piece after it was placed, and he made great progress! He even tore a bit of newspaper himself!!!

    I didn't ask other kids to help him, because they were all so BEYOND excited to start using the "dog drool" and I didn't want to distract them. The OT actually dipped her hands in the goo herself and put a couple of strips on his mask. It was a good morning; too bad my 5th graders were a disaster this afternoon!

  7. Glad it worked out because I had no idea! I have trouble with the same things some time. Luckily the kids are very helpful (it's sort of their thing) and I rely on them whenever I can. By the way thanks for your comment on my site. I am going to continue and hopefully not let it curb the ideas of what I want to talk about. As long as he stays in cyber space and out of my space! By the way. . . you are also the reason I got interested in blogging! Kindred spirits. I remember first seeing some of the bigger sites then when I saw yours it was like a real ongoing conversation which continues today and hopefully for a long time! Always interesting no matter what you're up to!