Adapted Art Activities Question

Question asked in October 2004:

I'm doing my Internships for Library Media Specialist this semester and am at Walhalla Elementary where the Art teacher has an interesting question. She needs suggestions for working with 3 students with visual impairments. She has tried clay sculpture; they didn't like this because they don't like sticky stuff on their fingers. She had the same problem with the cornstarch "noodles" from the teacher store. She has checked the materials from the State Library but they seem more suited to older students. She finally found a product from Crayola - a type of modeling clay but doesn't leave a sticky residue.

We could use any help or advice for working with these students. Thank you so much.

Some Responses

This book was published by The American Foundation for the Blind
You could request an interlibrary loan from your local library, or purchase the text here:

Art beyond sight: a resource guide to art, creativity, and visual impairment. Axel, Elisabeth Salzhauer

OR- a less expensive alternative
Time for art: art projects and lessons for students with visual impairments Showalter, Gail Cawley.

Projects include: Fake Fossils, Raised Line Drawings, Sandscript
Aluminum Repoussé, Papier-Mâché Bowls, Mixed-Media Puzzle of Me, Pinch Pot, Coiled Pot

Kecia B. Greer, South Carolina State Library, Talking Book Services

ow old are your students, a lot of the visually impaired are extremely tactile sensitive where they go by the feel of textures you can use various fabrics with different textures beads with different textures for each different color. audio tape their description of each color or texture so they can ply it back until they can remember what color feels like what whether cloth or beads. Make peactical things that they may some day use as a trade or make some money with.

Paula Pearson

  • Use gloves !!!
  • Paper Mache' (millions of things to create) (Face masks are good!)
  • Plaster of Paris (maybe for older kids only)
  • Finger paint with acrylics (with or without gloves)
  • Carving pumpkins or vegetables
  • Glue different textured fabrics to solid base figures: animals, trucks, flowers
  • "Frozen sculpture" made out of ice cream. (make it, then eat it)
  • Flour paste sculpture
  • Sew or glue fabric to make a "wearable" art object. (could be a great art project)
  • Decorate Christmas ornaments (with lots of colorful textured stuff)
  • Paper cutouts
  • Bead jewelry (big beads)
  • Weaving (belts, small rug, pot holder, basket, etc)
  • Abstract (large, as tall as the student) out of cardboard boxes and cardboard pieces that is free-standing.
  • LEGO Structure of some type (maybe something with wheels that will role and make noises)

Fred Key

I use different grades of sandpaper for various art projects. For example, when my preschoolers return to school, we do a "Look at the Shape I'm In" Activity. We cut out various shapes such as squares for shirts, rectangles for pants, triangles for dresses, ovals for shoes, circles for head and hands, etc. I use a different grade for each shape so that they can easily differentiate them when feeling them on the page. Then we glue them to a piece of large art paper. I make the shapes large enough so that little hands can manipulate them easily. Then if I am feeling particularly brave, we add feathers, beads, yarn for hair, etc to add additional textures. My visually impaired kids have enjoyed this and they can do this along with everyone else in the class.

We also have used traditional materials including foam soap, shaving cream, paper plates, puff paint, and in winter, I have used a product called Insta-snow that when mixed with water, creates a "real" snow like material. It is non-toxic and when frozen, feels like a snowball. We also put glitter in salt shakers so that they can feel the glue coming out of the container.

Theraputty is another texture - we hide different items in it and kids have to guess what the item is that they find based on the shape of the item. Often, we use those "found" items for a collage.

Finally, I do lots of sensory based activities, and one of the favorites is painting the hands and feet with thick (WASHABLE) paint. Then we use the prints for a variety of art projects...hands can be part of a lion's mane, a sunshine, the "leaves" of a tree...I paint it on thick so that it leaves a different texture on the paper, if possible. Footprints make great ghosts and hearts (when done in a V), We also use Ed Emberly's thumbprint books for different art activities as well.

As for the texture issues and not wanting to have the sticky stuff on their hands, I do a lot of coaching before I start an activity. We talk about how each thing feels, smells, looks (depending on the level of visual impairment) etc. I put my hand in first, talk about what it feels like, etc to get them used to the idea. Hope this helps.

Susie Bennett

I am a potter and have been teaching for 5 years. How old are your
students? I have a friend who was an art teacher that went blind because
of complications with back surgery. She does clay now. If
transportation could be arranged I am sure that she would be willing to
talk with your students and share about her story.

Another thought is that if the clay project was something they could play
with: a whistle, rattle, water squirter or something like that..maybe
they could adjust to the feel of the clay. Just a thought. You may have
already tried this. What kind of clay have you been using? Maybe a
different clay would feel better to their hands. Red clay tends to be
particularly "plastic" and slimy. There are lots of other clays out
there. I can recommend some resources. Maybe one of the clay suppliers would be willing to send you some samples to let you try.

Elizabeth Reynolds

  1. Wick sticks to arrange shapes on paper.
  2. Make a receipe of "Yak". It is less sticky. It is made with glue and borax and is not sticky.
  3. Order Picture Maker Kit from American Printing House for the Blind.
    Your Vision Teacher can get you one. It is a flannel board with
    manipulatives ready to go.
  4. Make a book to teach: poka-dot, stripes, zig-zag, diagonal with scrap materials.
  5. Good pumpkin book from American Printing House with manipulative

Marilyn Davis, Vision Rock Hill

The OT here and I have treated many students with these tactile
sensitivities and sensory integration problems. We have had good results with putting these children on a regular brushing program. Their teachers and OT have reported increased tolerance of different textures after starting the brushing program. It is not hard to do and gives good results. A PT or OT at your school could help you learn about how to do this. An OT could also give you ideas about how to progress children into trying different textures. I will also forward this email to our teachers at our
Multihandicapped School --- I've seen some great projects hanging on our walls.

Margaret Wehle, Physical Therapist, SC School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Try using a form of sand art so that the kids can trace with their
fingers different shapes of objects or free drawing to have the
students express the way they feel. Then make a digital picture of the
drawing to be displayed or shown to parents. You might try using real
object collages that can be duplicated by photography or displayed in a
presentation. Try using rice or beans or any other tactile item that can
be layered. Take front covers to old magazines and cut them up into
little pieces. Then form shapes out of the pieces and glue them to a
textured backgroud. The student should be able to identify the object by

Barbara Amick

My wife and I read your request. We are parents of a young man who is deaf blind. We can tell you first hand that working with individuals who are deaf blind is different than working with some one who is deaf or some one who may be blind.

The tactile approach is the a way of exposing them to various textures so they can be desensitized. Each student is unique and this may be something hard to over come. My wife used dough art ( Recipe is in Joy of Cooking Book). A suggestion: Read the recipe carefully with the student and let the student be involved in making the dough from beginning to end so they know what is in it. Our son did not like textures either, but he really enjoyed this form of art. He helped from the beginning making the dough. He used various objects to cut the dough, like bottle caps, jar tops, cookie cutter, etc. My wife recalls she also found a book in the Public library which gave shed insight to this problem and tips. Unfortunately she can not remember the title. Our son by exposing him to all texture slowly stopped the refusal in touching textures . It was a slow process.

We can recall our son having problems with holes, putting a spoon in his mouth and various food textures when he was very young. The way my wife over came this texture problem was by putting a nipple from a baby's bottle over the spoon. Slowly using foods he liked got him to use a spoon and handle some textures. He still has problem with eating because of his jaw not lining up properly but he eat some textured foods now. He didn't like holes, so we cut a circle hole out of a piece of clear plastic and put our face in it. We also had him hand objects to us through the hole this helped some. Just be inventive and don't give up.

Two good resources:

National Technical Assistance Consortium for children and young adults who are deaf blind, (NTAC). They do technical Assistance nationwide to families, service providers, state agencies and organization responsible for the care and services off infants, children and young adults who are deaf blind. You can contact them at Helen Keller National Center,(HKNC) at (516) 944-8900.

The Helen Keller National Center for Deafblind Youths & Adults . South Carolina Regional Representative out of Atlanta, Ga office. Telephone (404)-766-9625. They do consumer advocacy, consultation and technical assistance to school and agencies. HKNC Reps do assistance in developing local services, consumer follow-up along support as needed, information and referral services, professional development and in service training. Public education and awareness and maintenance of information for National Registry.

HKNC also has a PATH Program at HKN Center and they might be able to give some input on way of help to deal with these students.

You also have Deaf Blind Link (known as DB Link). DB Link's telephone number (800) 435-9376 or web site for downloads of information --

You also have the National Family Association for Deaf Blind Inc.(NFADB). It is a nonprofit volunteer based family association who's philosophy is that individuals who are deaf blind are valued members of society and are entitled to the same opportunities and choices as other members of the community. They have a Regional Rep who works with the states of SC, NC, TN and KY. The phone number of NFADB (800) 255-0411.

Bill Hull

It would be helpful if I knew specific activities that were planned. In
the Integrations catalog there is a material called Therapy putty and
the texture is somewhat different than playdough and clay. It is harder
to manipulate and is great for developing strength in the hands for fine
motor skills. Another product that is very useful are Wikki Stix. They are made of wax and yarn, and they stick to many surfaces. They are great manipulatives also. I hope this helps.

Mary Jane Davis, Teacher for the Visually Impaired

Perhaps you can use wicky stix. They are waxy sticks about the length of a pickup stick. They can be bent, shaped, molded, and cut. They can be stuck to many surfaces and can be reused. They might be used to draw patterns, textures, simple pictures, or anything that one could imagine.

L.M. McElveen

Two groups sent in by Andy Lyons

Georgia Artists with Disabilities, Inc.
1710 Green Street, NE
Conyers, GA 30207
(404) 483-9396
Patricia W. Hesterly - Chairman

Association of Handicapped Artists, Inc.
5150 Broadway
Depew, NY 14043
(716) 683-4624
Patricia Ponce

I am a visually impaired retired rehabilitation teacher for the blind and visually impaired. Try ceramics if you have a kiln or try using leather products to make small items. Also try making magnets or some form of yarn art. Most people with limited vision don't like sticky things on their hands.

Patsy Jones

Try the GOODFEEL Braille Music program from Dancing Dots.

Cyndy Milstead

Here are some ideas that you may well have tried. I have worked with students who for many reasons won't touch textures and/or use their hands much. Some of the things that have worked have included: allowing them to hold sticks such as popsicle sticks, paint brushes with no bristles ( you may need to cover the handle with something individually preferred) wear gloves, insert some sort of paper between their hands and the art texture that is pleasing to them..I had one student who loved the sound of crinkle, crackle so I used foil type cheap wrapping paper..I have also used bubble wrap. The store Michael's carries a cheap pottery wheel type device that they could press and at least turn the clay and participate in that fashion. I have also put aromatic scents such as vanilla, etc individuals have liked in clay or textures such as dried coffee grounds. I have made store bought cookie cutters available as well as homemade shapes out of potatoes, metal etc.. I tend to try to find something each likes and work from there "sorta" backing into the texture you want them work with in an alternative manner. If all else fails I will have them direct a project and expect participation in that manner..Let me know if you come up with other ideas.

Sharon Steed

It sounds to me as if the first priority would be to immerse the students in a structured sensory integration program. When children are under developed in one sense, the others may be "too" developed causing aversion type reactions. It sounds as if the children need to experience the mediums at their comfort level...there are many resources available for developing a sensory integration program.

good luck... Sherri Westby

I gave my principal some reading material on working with the visually impaired student, I think she is planning to mail it to you. It contains a wealth of knowledge and insight, even project ideas. I've tried everything from mud to paper from the office shredder with some success. To me its all about the process, rather than the product :-)

Ted Micken

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