Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Very Special Children

The following is an excerpt from KinderArt: Born to Create by Andrea Mulder-Slater and Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

  • Whether your child is particularly active, hearing or visually impaired, or developmentally delayed, always point out the achievements that she makes. Always, always, always, focus on the positive and not on the concepts not yet mastered. You have all the time in the world.
  • Find yourself a support group by contacting other parents who are in the same situation as you. Find out what works for them. Share your triumphs and your failures too.

  • Remember at all times that special needs children do not misbehave on purpose. They want to please you. They want to feel important and worthwhile. Sometimes they may experience difficulty carrying out a task because they have too much energy or because they simply feel frustrated and cannot focus on the task at hand. Be patient and let them know that you are proud of their efforts.
  • Keep a record of your child's achievements. This way you will be able to easily recall the events and experiences that you both enjoyed the most. This will also help you to remember those activities which kept your child's attention and those which did not.
  • Do not overdo the rules. Flexibility is the rule. Think about it – how much fun can making a clay critter or painting a sunshine be if all you hear is, "Don't make a mess" and "Sit up straight."
  • Take lots of deep breaths.
  • Be fair and honest.
  • Don't worry if your child is not reading at the same level as his peers. Don't panic if your youngster doesn't speak or write as quickly as his brother did. If you do suspect that your child has a disability, contact your doctor and make sure the proper tests are carried out. Knowledge is half the battle.
  • All children will be able to take part in some sort of art-making activity. By doing so, they will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem. However, be sure to choose all activities carefully – gearing the activity to the ability of the child.
  • Make available lots of modeling materials like clay or homemade dough. This is true for visually impaired children as well as those who have limited fine motor control.
  • If your child is visually impaired, gather a variety of textures to experiment with - smooth papers, rough handmade papers etc.
  • Scented markers are always fun.
  • Have lots of "big paper" for large movements of the hands and arms.
  • Finger paint (bought or homemade) is a terrific tactile material.
  • Dance, dance, dance.
  • Building objects is a great way for kids to feel that they have accomplished something. Try bits of wood, mat board, cardboard etc. You can work as a team, gluing pieces together and in the end even your visually impaired children can feel their creations as they evolve.
  • Weaving is a great idea.
  • Making musical instruments or any art object that makes noise is great.
  • Drawing or painting in time to music is always a hit.
  • If your child is hearing impaired, expose him to musical instruments where he can "feel" the music. Allow him to experience the wind that blows from a woodwind and the vibrations of a guitar string or drum head.
  • Children with down syndrome respond especially well to music, as do youngsters with autism.
  • Try as much as possible to expose your kiddos to the things that make them happy - the things that make them laugh - the things that make them clap their hands and smile.
© Andrea Mulder-Slater, Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

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