For one of my grad classes, we had to come up with and share 10 low-tech adaptive art tools that a student with a disability might use. Adaptive art tools help those with disabilities enhance and sustain functional capabilities. They had to be made from cheap materials or things that we already had. I know art teachers everywhere create/use them, but I didn’t find any resources listing ideas, so I am posting mine here! Hopefully someone finds them useful!
1. Slip resistant shelf liners
These are relatively cheap and come in rolls and have a multitude of uses. It could be wrapped around a tool like pencils or paintbrushes to provide a more ergonomic handle for those with problems in fine motor skills or gripping. It could be an alternate material for sewing on for students who have fine motor difficulties or allergies to burlap (what my county uses). They can be used in the tray of a student in a wheelchair to avoid having items roll around outside of their grasp. Lastly, they can be attached to seats to prevent slipping around/fidgeting and falling out of chairs.
2. Embroidery hoop
An embroidery hoop can be used to help students when sewing. Some students get frustrated with the ‘floppiness’ of fabric, so it could feasibly be stretched to give the student a taut sewing surface. You could even put the shelf liner in it, as it is not a stiff material.
3. Squeeze bottles
An OT once told me that regular Elmer’s glue bottles are very poorly designed. They are hard to squeeze and not as ergonomic as a round shape. I have a hoard of squeeze bottles from a class that did tie dye/batik, but the round shape lends itself to easier usage. If I were to buy them, I would get ones with attached caps. An art teacher told me that you can use Vaseline or olive oil in glue caps with q-tips and they will never clog, so maybe I will do that so they don’t clog when students lose the tops!
4. Broken pencil
The same OT from #3 said that sometimes new pencils and crayons are simply too large and too heavy for small hands and can impede their motor skills. A pencil or crayon (even paintbrushes!) can easily remedy the situation, although most teachers are reluctant to chop up their supplies.
5. Ruler attached to a brayer
Rulers or yardsticks could be attached to brayers and paintbrushes to give a student in a wheelchair access to an inking station. If they do not have the fine motor skills to roll out the ink, they could get help keeping the brayer on the inking tray and move their wheelchair back and forth since that is something they might have more control over.
6. Model Magic
This is for creating thicker grips on tools like pencils and paintbrushes. If working with a small population, I would allow them to mold the clay to their hand so that they are very comfortable with the tool. They could even swirl colors together and decorate it so that they feel more ownership of the tool.
7. Wikki Stix
These are great for visually impaired and blind students. The student can “draw” with them and trace around it with a pencil, then color or paint within them with that extra sensory boundary telling them where to stop. They could be used to make art on paper or sculptures as well for a tactile art activity.
8. Cookie sheet or rectangular cake pan
This is for students who have difficulties staying on the paper. It would be useful for students who are blind or have visual impairments and students without developed fine motor skills because it acts as a bumper around the edge of the paper.
9. Velcro glove or sock
For students without developed fine motor skills or students who are spastic or impaired hand movements, gloves can be worn with a Velcro strip on the palm with tools having another Velcro strip that can attach to the glove. (if it is too hot, the glove’s fingers could be cut off) I didn’t have a glove, so I used a sock with holes cut out for fingers.
10. Weighted cuff (sock+rice+Velcro)
Weighted gloves are often used for students with less developed fine motor skills, spasticity, or impaired hand movements. This will help restrict movement, and other materials could be used in the sock for more or less weight. If the student has wrist pain from art activities, I chose dry rice because you can heat it in the microwave for pain relief (in which case a few layers of cloth should be put between the students’ skin and the sock as it can get hot.) It is possible to include a few drops of essential oil with the rice to add another sensory element if the student is motivated by smell. The student could use stamps, fabric/felt stickers, or paint to decorate part of the cuff to give the student ownership of it and a sense of pride. Velcro can be attached to both ends to make it into a cuff. Long socks can be simply tied at the open end so this can be created without sewing!
Are there any other adaptive art tools that you use in your art room?