09:37 AM

Art School offers more inclusive classes for kids on autism spectrum

After numerous parents asked for additional art classes with accommodations for their children with autism, Director of University of Houston-Clear Lake's Art School for Children David Moya looked to graduate students in the university's Behavioral Analysis program for guidance.

"We are looking for ways to help train our students to find strategies to teach children with autism in an art classroom," he said. "We are hoping to be able to offer some summer classes to this demographic. I'm looking for opportunities to allow children to take advantage of more inclusion."

Moya, who is also a clinical assistant professor of education, said he would also like to learn more about how to teach this population. "The more I teach, the more I'm interested in special populations," he said.

After consulting with (Associate Professor of Behavior Analysis) Sarah Lechago, Moya said Arabelle Martin, Jennifer Carrera and Alison Alvarez, who are all graduate students in UHCL's Behavior Analysis program, conducted the training, which took place in April.

"Students with autism deserve the opportunity to participate in art classes, and any activity of their choosing, with teachers who can be attentive to their needs and who can help them flourish have fun. Our goal is to create a world that is inclusive of all people, including people with autism," said Martin, a second-year student in the Behavior Analysis master's program.

"The main point we shared during our presentation is that every person and every setting is different," she explained. "There is no one tactic or method that will help all teachers with all students with autism, but we encourage teachers to seek out individuals in their community who have experience working with different students and collaborating with them on what would work best in their environment."

Michele Chapman, a teaching assistant and pre-service teacher working toward her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design with EC-12 art certification, said the training is valuable to her as an educator.

"It's an important experience for me," she said. "In my classes eventually, I will have students with needs for special attention and I don't want to feel helpless during that time for someone who needs me. I want the training and ability to adjust to help all the kids in my class."

Chapman and other teachers who participated in the training will put their skills to use in a morning class scheduled for Saturday, May 22, with elementary students from 10-11 a.m. and an afternoon class from 12-1:30 p.m. for secondary students.

For class registration and more information about the Art School for Children, go online.