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Add Structure to Unstructured Times with Crafts

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Written by Rebekah Poe, M.Ed.,  an award-winning former special education teacher and national teaching conference presenter from Alabama.

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and with the anticipation and excitement can come changes in routine and being off schedule. For our neurodiverse students, a lack of the structure and routine they are accustomed to can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity. 

Ashley Barlow, Director of Education for the National Down Syndrome Congress, has this to say, “One tip to surviving the holidays with your neurodiverse students is to add structure to the unstructured time with crafting and giving.”

She says that sometimes students are rewarded with free time, and as a former teacher, I know I have allowed my students to complete a lesson and then have a little bit of down time. However, that unstructured time can be overwhelming to a student with neurodiversity. 

She recommends adding in some options students can do when they have that unexpected free time or if there is a change to the schedule that adds in some downtime. Perhaps while waiting to attend a holiday party or school performance.

One option that she recommends is to have the students create crafts during their down time and give them away as holiday gifts!

Making Crafts Academic

Crafting might sound like it’s just a fun activity, but it’s actually a great way to work on skills your students are already practicing in the classroom. While crafting, students are working on fine motor skills, task completion, and following directions. If they are crafting with a friend, they are also working on collaboration and communication! 


And in true Digitability fashion, we aren’t going to leave you to have to come up with craft ideas on your own! We’ve created two differentiated craft ideas for your classroom- one that takes almost no prep on your part, and one that is a little more involved. Let’s dive in and check them out!

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Click the video below to learn more!

Low Prep Idea: Paper Snowflakes

Students will love creating these snowflakes that can be cut, colored, and glued onto sheets of construction paper to create a wintery scene or hung on a bulletin board or door decoration to add some seasonal cheer to your classroom.

With three levels for differentiation, each student in your classroom will be able to participate in the way that is most meaningful for them. From folding and cutting a more intricate snowflake design, to cutting out a pre-designed snowflake, to tracing a snowflake pattern, this winter craft with task-analysis rubric is the perfect addition to your seasonal lessons.

More Prep Idea:

Popsicle Stick Picture Frames

These popsicle stick frames make perfect gifts for students to give to family and friends. Students can unleash their creativity with this activity by decorating their frames with stickers, markers, paint, glitter, and anything else you can think of!

This differentiated craft idea can be as easy as a simple square frame or you can let your students design their own shape to make it more advanced. We’ve included directions for each level, so the work is done for you!

Ashley says that crafting also gives students and teachers the opportunity to slow down and take some time to build relationships. Sometimes, neurodiverse students can have difficulty accessing the spirit of the holidays because the time can be so overwhelming. Making crafts allows students to actively participate in the holiday fun through purposeful actions and structured activities. 

You can download both activities here. If you try them with your class, share the fun on social media by tagging @Digitability on all social media platforms. We look forward to seeing what your students come up with!

About Digitability

Digitability is an award-winning comprehensive life skills and transition curriculum that continues to be recognized as an innovative solution to the unemployment crisis facing a large — and growing — population of those with disabilities, such as autism, intellectual disability, Down syndrome and more. Students graduate with a work-ready portfolio and the skills to showcase their experiences, as well as a self-advocacy plan for any workplace. Teachers access an easy to use system that reduces planning and progress monitoring time.

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