Inclusive Arts Education

About this Theme:

Just as with typically developing students, the arts have the potential to be a beneficial and meaningful learning experience for children with exceptionalities. For many of these students, artistic environments can offer unique opportunities for self-expression and creative development. It is no coincidence that Visual Arts, Music, Drama, and Dance have all been employed for therapeutic purposes for many individuals; arts activities can also be great opportunities for the involvement of peers in inclusive practices. Depending on exceptional students’ particular strengths and needs, their ability to succeed in artistic endeavours can be impacted by a number of factors. Whether it be accessing appropriate materials, activities, or environments, there are a number of personal and systemic barriers that can be mitigated through accommodations in an inclusive arts classroom. There are numerous exceptionalities affecting students, but the following resources primarily look at those with physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disability (DD), blindness and vision impairment, and those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Readers should note that each of these exist on a broad spectrum and some tips will not be applicable to every individual. Ultimately, it is essential that educators take a responsive and reflective approach and begin by discovering learners’ individual interests, preferences, and needs.

Tips for Inclusive Arts Education

Tips for with Students with Physical Disabilities 

Tips for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder & Developmental Disability

Tips for Students with Visual Impairments

Tips for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

General Resources:

Hutchinson, N. L. (2017). Inclusion of exceptional learners in Canadian schools: A practical handbook for teachers (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, Inc.: Pearson Education, Inc.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2017). Special education: Kindergarten to grade 12 policy and resource guide. Retrieved from 

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013). Learning for all: A guide to effective assessment and instruction for all students, kindergarten to grade 12. Retrieved from 

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010). Caring and safe schools in Ontario: Supporting students with special education needs through progressive discipline, K - Grade 12. Retrieved from 

Ontario Ministry of Education (2004). The individual education plan: A resource guide. Retrieved from 

Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

General Arts Education Readings:

Davis, K. (n.d). Tips to consider when including a student with ASD in Art, Music, or Physical Education. Retrieved from 

National Deaf Children’s Society. (n.d.). Making your arts activities deaf friendly. Retrieved from 

VSA. (2012). Start with the arts. Retrieved from 

Visual Arts Education Readings:

Axel, E. S., and Levent, N. S. (Eds.). (2003). Art beyond sight: A resource guide to art, creativity, and visual impairment. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind.

Furniss, G. (2008). Celebrating the artmaking of children with autism. Art Education, 61(5), 8-12.

Gerber, B. L. and Guay D. M. (2006). Reaching and teaching students with special needs through art. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

Gerber, B. and Kellman, J. (2010). Understanding Students with Autism through Art. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

Martin, N. (2009). Art as an early intervention tool for children with autism. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishing.

The Art of Education. (2016). How to work with students with autism in the art room. Retrieved from 

Willings, C. (n.d.). Teaching students with visual impairments: Creative arts adaptations. Retrieved from

Music Education Readings:

Hammel, A. M. and Hourigan, R. M. (2013). Teaching music to students with autism. New York,

NY: Oxford University Press.

National Deaf Children’s Society. (n.d.). How to make music activities accessible for deaf children and young people. Retrieved from 

Drama Education Readings:

Carleton, J. P. (2012). Story drama in the special needs classroom: Step-by-step lesson plans for teaching through dramatic play. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dance Education Readings:

Willings, C. (n.d.). Teaching students with visual impairments: Dance adaptations. Retrieved from

Arts Organizations:

ActionPlay – Inclusive arts organization for individuals with ASD:

Arts Unbound – “an organization dedicated to the creative expression of persons with disabilities”: 

Upstream Arts – “uses the power of the creative arts to activate and amplify the voice and choice of individuals with disabilities”:

VSA – The International Organization on Arts and Disability:


Huffington Post. (2015, July 26). Artist invents tools that enable kids with disabilities to paint [Video file]. Retrieved from

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (2013). Art lessons for children with disabilities [Video file]. Retrieved from

Schukei, A. (n.d.). Essential strategies for teaching adaptive art [Video file]. Retrieved from

Aaron Feinstein (2016, March 16). Actionplay! Inclusive arts, education and culture in NYC. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Compiled by Caileigh Prince