My name is Heather Wagner and I am a special education teacher for students with severe needs. I’m sorry for the late reply; I’m not as diligent on checking my regular e-mail as I am my work e-mail. I teach students who are nonverbal/limited verbal, limited motor skills, and low cognitive levels (mild to severe). My students’ disabilities vary; I have a caseload of 9 students with 7 different disability labels in which 2 of my students are on the Autism spectrum. I’ve used the Celtic Art Therapy (CAT) in my classroom 4 days a week for the last 6 months. I have also taught students with a more common learning disability using CAT plates with them as well.
The plates I purchased from Anne are a combination of the regular plates and also laminated ones (so they can be written/drawn on) in each style of design (open, medium & tight). Except for one, my students are not able to hold a stylus due to lack of fine motor skills so I modified the plates with using a dry erase marker. Although challenging, my students struggle with using their non-dominant hands so they receive assistance from an adult; my students with no fine motor skills trace hand-over-hand or they watch an adult as they trace the plate. This also served as an occupational therapy goal; the students wipe their plates clean of the marker when finished. With this, they serve as a speech goal as students tracing the plates demonstrate more verbal expression that requires a response.
In my observation, the CAT plates are most beneficial when a student is in need of a mental break or right before doing academic work, especially if the topic is challenging. Since children are unaware of the body’s natural need to decompress, the CAT plates give this opportunity for the brain to become more relaxed. My students didn’t respond well to the CAT plates when first introduced (I feel this was due to the foreign feeling of relaxation they omitted). After a routine was established, my students became more accepting of the task and on most days looked forward to “Plate Time” (as I call it). I observed the open designs are mainly preferred although each child experiments (occasionally) with the tight and medium designs. For my students with Autism, I’ve noticed the medium and tight designs are preferred over the open designs although the open designs are requested but less frequently. Lastly, I’ve noticed that my staff enjoy the CAT plates for personal fulfillment or to de-escalate from dealing with a challenging situation. Furthermore, I’ve noticed when a staff member participates with using the CAT plates simultaneously with a child(ren), the child(ren) display more interest as the CAT plates are being modeled. For an escalated child, I’ve noticed the modeling aids in the child’s redirection of using the CAT plates when they struggle to take interest in using the CAT plates for self de-escalation.
To conclude, I highly recommend the CAT plates with any child, especially low functioning children. I’ve found the CAT plates to be beneficial for positive mental growth as well as mental relaxation. In addition to the mental benefits, I’ve observed the CAT plates to assist children with fine motor growth and also verbal expression/speech growth. I’m hopeful you found my reply to be helpful in your decision in using CAT plates with your program. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reply to my e-mail.
Severe Needs Teacher – Colorado