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Topic 2:
The Art and Writing Connection

What is the art and writing connection and why is it important for students with disabilities?

Caroline and Pati discuss in Chapter 5 of the book Emergent Literacy Success: Merging Technology and Whole Language for Students with Disabilities (pp124-125) issues concerning the connection between art and writing, as well as the various avenues for art that are available to children with special needs. Some of those issues are discussed below.

Some of the earliest forms of writing were in pictures such as hieroglyphics or petroglyphs. Just as children initially "read" pictures to tell the stories, in early writings children incorporate pictures and scribbling to write about a story or event. Initially, those pictures have many words embedded in them with more words or letters than the child is able to print. Children use their oral language to label or talk about their pictures with adults, thus bringing their stories to life. By encouraging drawing, we are also encouraging children to learn how to use and manipulate the tools of writing. By admiring their works, we are reinforcing the idea that their marks are valuable and have something to say to others. For more discussion of the art and writing connection, see Ann Haas Dyson (1982a, 1982b).

The difficulty for children with severe disabilities is that often they cannot create pictures or scribbles. As educators, it is extremely important that we begin to make adaptations and provide children with appropriate tools so that all children can express themselves on paper.

In the handout Free Form Art and Construction Art Caroline and Pati describe the distinction between free-form art and construction art. In free-form art, the child has the opportunity to explore different tools and mediums with no parameters (e.g., watercolors, fingerpainting). In construction art, the child is given enough structure to permit successful completion of the activity (e.g., affixing yarn, buttons, feathers, etc. to a paper plate to make a mask). Both forms of art have value, and children must have opportunities to experience success in each form.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

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