Using Art in Special Education

UPDATED: July 2, 2019

Recently, the winners of the 2019 InSights Art Competition and Exhibition were announced and we are pleased to share that Nolan was awarded 1st Place in the category of Preschool/Kindergarten for his artwork, Ocean, and Gianna was awarded Honorable Mention in the category of Preschool/Kindergarten for her artwork, Lava Love! Their art pieces will be displayed in the American Printing House’s annual Exhibition held in Louisville, Kentucky with ribbons attached. Congratulations Nolan and Gianna! The Watson Institute students who participated in the Exhibition hail from four local school districts: Baldwin-Whitehall, Belle Vernon, Canon McMillan, and Chartiers-Houston.


Youth Art Month is a time to celebrate visual art in special education and recognize the importance art programs play in the development of young people with special needs. At the Watson Institute, we incorporate art classes into our students’ weekly schedules, providing opportunities for learning and therapeutic engagement through art.

In addition to scheduled art class, special education teachers at the Watson Institute often utilize art to reinforce educational and functional goals for their students. In Sarah DeCubellis’ classroom at the Education Center South, art projects provide opportunities for her students to work on fine motor skills, vision therapy, and occupational and physical therapy activities. Many of the students in Ms. DeCubellis’ classroom have visual impairments and work with Watson’s Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), Carrie Bonacci, to receive vision therapy.

Recently, students in Ms. DeCubellis’ class took part in an opportunity to share their artwork with a wider audience by participating in the 2019 APH InSights Art Competition and Exhibition.

Fun, Expressive Educational Activities with Art

Every year the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) – a nonprofit organization which creates educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people with visual impairments – invites visually impaired artists of all ages to submit artwork to their annual art competition.

The InSights Art Competition and Exhibition accepts artwork created in any medium, such as paint, pencil or ink drawings, and wood crafting. This year, four students in Ms. DeCubellis’ classroom participated in the competition, submitting their unique art projects for consideration in the competition.

The students utilized a variety of techniques and were encouraged to make choices about the kind of art they wanted to create and what colors they wanted to use. For example, Nolan used a pendulum technique in which a plastic cup with a small hole in the bottom was filled with his acrylic paint color of choice then dangled above his canvas. Nolan gave the cup nudges to create a pendulum splatter effect across his art piece titled, “Ocean”.

Ameera created her artwork, “My Sway”, using tempera paint which she painted onto her canvas by hand. She chose shades of orange, pink, and red to bring her artwork to life.

This art opportunity provided students with a fun, educational activity and a way to express their creativity. Ms. DeCubellis shared that “it was so much fun seeing how each student expressed their individuality through their choices and artistic expression.”

Learn more about the Watson Institute’s special education schools and programs and LIKE us on Facebook to stay updated on the latest happenings at Watson!


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