“A dirty kid is a happy kid” I always say, or is it?
Most of the time, yes, the dirtier the better. Messy art is fantastic and having the freedom to get dirty is a privilege that I hope all children get to experience. But for some, it is not joyful.
For some it causes the same type of adrenaline reaction that many of us get when we see a spider. This is exactly how it was described to me by an occupational therapist. These are the hundreds of children that suffer from varying degrees of sensory issues.
These are the children that have trouble with their clothing every morning, that don’t like loud noises, that don’t like to get dirty, or wet or sandy. This is not the forum for a lengthy explanation of sensory issues, rather a plea as educators and parents to keep our eyes open to them. These children are not being defiant or difficult. And with simple adaptations, they can enjoy many of the same activities with their peers.
Here are a few examples:
Last week I traced the bodies of all of my students and they painted them outside. I could not get this one boy to let me trace him. He absolutely refused. His mom came in to volunteer and we tried just tracing his hand, but he really did not want the marker or pencil near his skin at all. As I was looking out the window later that day, I saw the shadows of the younger children on the playground. I grabbed the paper and this child and I went outside. He stood in the sun and I traced his shadow. He had a body tracing just like his friends without a pencil going near his skin.
To paint his body, he also had issues. Many people might say, “oh, he just doesn’t like to paint.” Thinking about how in the past, at camp, he didn’t like getting wet, I cleaned off the handle of the used paint brush and handed it to him. He then took the brush and began painting. He painted as long as the brush handles were dry.
When the class was finger painting, I gave him a shaving cream brush. It looked like finger painting, but his hands stayed clean.
When we were gluing small things onto name cards he wouldn’t go near it. Again the sticky/wet issue. When I handed him tweezers, he sat there happily choosing the objects he wanted to glue onto his paper.
These are small differentiations that were made for this child and they made his entrances into all of these art experiences possible.
Please, watch for these children, read about sensory issues, and whether your students have them or not, make sure you are providing each child with what he or she needs. Fair does not mean the same.
Once in awhile-A dirty kid isn’t a happy kid.