Heartwarming Story about Special Needs Children and Polymer Clay

Polymer Clay Art by Special Needs Children“My eyes fill with
tears at their beauty
and my heart was filled
with pride at their

These “Spot” features are for you guys to display your accomplishments, share stories of inspiration and even ask for assistance with challenges that you may be experiencing. The projects are based on techniques learned from articles here at the blog, as well as from tutorials at the Polymer Clay Video Library.

Polymer Clay Art by Special Needs Children


I would like to tell you a story and let you know how much you have touched my life and the lives of 4 “special needs” children. After 18 years working at a major communications company here in the states, I got laid off 6 years ago. Four years ago I was fortunate to find a job at an elementary school. It is the best job I have ever had – absolutely no stress!

I’m a mom to 35 teachers and a grandma to 600+ kids. Last year I was able to show the “special needs” class how to make lentil beads and cut them into different shapes. We made pendants and earrings for their moms for Mother’s Day. They chose 3 colors, we made snakes and then twisted the snakes together. We made balls and then swirled the ball into lentils.  After pressing the lentils down, the kids then used cutters to make shapes if they wanted to.

This year we made photo frames for their dads for Father’s Day. The kids did almost everything. They conditioned the clay.  We made jellyroll canes and bulls eye canes and cut out basic shapes. They even tried to turn the extruder and made snakes. They decorated the frames and I took them home and baked them.

Then, with baby wipes and waxed paper in hand, we put Future Floor Wax on the frames. When the frames dried the kids were so excited. My eyes fill with tears at their beauty and my heart was filled with pride at their accomplishments. The process took over a week at about an hour a day. It was worth every minute.

There were 4 kids – a 1st grader with autism, a 3rd grader with downs, and a 4th grader and 5th grader with learning disabilities. They were wanting to know what they were going to make next year before school was out for the summer.

Please forgive the quality of the photos I took of the kids work… I didn’t know about the Macro setting on my camera. I wish I could have taken photos of the kids making the frames, however the school district just doesn’t allow their photos on the Internet (children’s privacy and protection laws).

Thank you again for all you (and your whole family) do.  You have given your heart and soul to all of us.  You are so loved and so blessed.


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  1. Tanya L, 01 July, 2010

    Linda – Thank you so much for sharing this story with us all. As the “big sister” of a mentally challenged woman (and 9 years older than she is), my heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears as I read your story. Dee, my sister, still takes part in an art program every summer even though she’s 38 now, and some of the pieces they turn out are nothing less than amazing! I don’t know that they ever tried poly clay, but I’ve GOT to send a link to this article to my mom. Maybe she can suggest it. The artwork, and they do something different every year, is put on show in our state capitol’s mall in Harrisburg, PA and then auctioned off afterward. Isn’t working with the mentally challenged so rewarding? – Tanya L.

  2. Elizabeth K., 01 July, 2010

    Hi Linda B. this amazing story of yours almost makes me want to hurry up the road to the nearst special school and teach these lovely kids. Their work is amazing and your tutoring almost comes from God.
    What wonderful patience you have , and what gratification and fulfilment you must feel.
    Thanks to our wonderful Cindy who shows us all the way, we can pass it on to such great causes. I just loved your story and had tears looking at their wonderful work, knowing especially how handicaped some of them are.I love teaching too, and now know in my “twilight” years, LOL that my real vocation should have been in teaching,so can truly understand what you are saying here
    Cant tell you how inspired I am and how inspiring you are, being the Grandma like you, I can really relate.
    God bless you.
    Elizabeth .K.

  3. Ken H, 01 July, 2010

    This was a wonderful story, those who have difficulties in one way are usually touched by the divine in another to balance the scales so to speak, their artwork is beautiful, just looking at it made/makes me happy, too many times these children are allowed to slip through the cracks, Linda, please keep up the good work by giving these children an outlet for their creative expression.

    Tanya L, where in PA do you live, I’m in Philadelphia.

  4. Tanya L, 01 July, 2010

    @Ken H: Hi Ken. I live in Adamstown ~ about halfway between Reading and Lancaster. Actually not too far from you if you hop on the turnpike!

  5. Jocelyn, 01 July, 2010

    Amazing how art and music can stimulate the mind and create calm and accomplishment for challenged children. Linda, you got tremendous results from these kids, bless you and kudos for your fine work.

  6. Joyce M, 01 July, 2010

    Oh Linda, what emotions you and your story have brought to the surface. The little contact I’ve had in my life with special needs children taught me how much love they have to give, and it is unconditional. The beautiful people who, like yourself, have been called into their lives to satisfy the needs. Your heart must be bursting with satisfaction in their accomplishments. I can just vision their reactions when they saw their finished products. Their love of bright colors is wonderful and brings on the sunshine. You and they are truly blessed to have found one another. May you continue to spread the happiness and sense of accomplishment found in polymer clay, through our wonderful Cindy and Doug and family.

  7. Peggy Barnes, 01 July, 2010

    God works miracles through so many of us. Special people like yourself are miracles to children like these as to the parents of these children. When Mom and Dad received these gifts I am sure tears swelled in their eyes as well. Thank God for people like you who can touch the hearts of these children and their parents. It is amazing the warmth these special kids have in their heart and souls. So eager to love and be loved.Their artistic ability with your help Linda is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sure you have inspired all of us to become a better person to try to reach out to someone in need of even just a hug. If a hug is all someone can give at this time then give that hug because the one needing it will be so ever grateful. God bless you and the love you have offered to others. This clay family and what they accomplish thanks to Cindy and Doug become more incredible every day. I am honored to be a part of it and share in these wonderful heart touching testimonies.

    Thank you and special Uuuuuuggggs to Linda B. and your grand-children.

  8. Susan B, 01 July, 2010

    Thank you Linda B and Cindy for sharing this truly wonderful story.
    Linda – I have nothing but admiration for what you do together with your special needs children to create such lovely pieces of art.

  9. Lisa Whitham, 01 July, 2010

    I loved this story the from the first time you told it to me Linda, and I knew it would touch peoples hearts like it did mine…just makes my heart happy! I’m so glad Cindy “Spotlighted” your kids clay art. They did a fantastic job with the clay and that’s thanks to your teaching them!

    Keep On Clayin’ On,
    ~Lisa ;)

  10. Judy, 01 July, 2010

    Awww. This is just such a lovely feature. I’ve got to agree with all the comments here.
    Thanks, Linda

  11. Melinda Herron, 01 July, 2010

    Wow, How fabulous!!! It’s such a great story. Beautiful Linda!

  12. Linda K., 01 July, 2010

    Linda, this is such an inspiring story. I was a high-school teacher in my younger days and I always said that you have to be an extraordinary person to work with special-needs kids. You have proven that to be true.

    I’m so impressed by the pieces that your special kids created! They’re parents must be thrilled with their artwork.

  13. carolyn, 01 July, 2010

    This is probably the most beautiful spot ever posted here … the pieces are lovely, bright and cheerful … but the whole story is what is so very beautiful. It does take a specially blessed person to work with the special needs children and I so very much admire you. It is fantastic that you could bring your vocation and avocation together in such a special way. God bless you real good!

  14. Catalina, 01 July, 2010

    Wow! This is terrific! They did an amazing job! Polymer clay is so fitting for all ages. I hope this makes their self confidence fly high! You do have the best job in the world!! :)

  15. Koolbraider, 01 July, 2010

    Linda, God bless you! You are making a special bright spot for “your” children. Thankyou for this story. It’s wonderful to read about how generous and unselfish people enhance the lives of others.

  16. DJ, 01 July, 2010

    Your story is so touching Linda, and the pieces the kids have created are really lovely!! I share how you feel about how rewarding it is to work with individuals with special needs. I work at a drop in centre for developmentally disabled adults and continue to learn each day from our participants. I feel like I’ve found a family of truly honest, caring people with so much curiosity. I think because of this openness to learn and do, the art (paintings, photos, writing, crafts) they create is amazing. Our clients show and often sell their work at an annual art show…it’s such a thrill to see someone beaming with pride with their work, especially if they’ve sold an item!
    I’ll bet your project inspired that sense of pride in your kids too. It must have been so rewarding to see their reactions when they saw what they made…not to mention the fun playing with clay too!!

  17. Freda K, 01 July, 2010

    Thank you for sharing your story and pictures. I so admire teachers and especially teachers of special needs kids.

  18. Linda B., 01 July, 2010

    Thank you all for your kind words. These kids are awsome. I can’t wait to see them each day. We are getting the school ready for the new school year. Can you believe school starts here on August 13th. That’s Friday the 13th. Really!!! Can you believe that? A hundred years ago when I was in school, we always started the day after Labor Day. That’s the first Monday in September for all of you out of the States folks.

    I sit here reading your thoughts and seeing your work every day and think how wonderful and creative you all are. I sometimes look at a block of clay and wonder what I am ever going to do with it. Then Cindy shows us a fabulous tutorial and off I go.

    Lisa is a great e-mail friend who helps me by letting me vent over my mistakes. Phaedra is a God send helping me to learn how to link to Cindy’s blog on my Flickr page. Don’t have it all together yet but will soon. Then I can let you all see my work. Not as good as all of yours but I’m working on it!!!

    I am so greatful to be a part of such a kind, supportive and loving group of people.

    Linda B.

  19. Phaedrakat, 03 July, 2010

    @Linda B.: Linda, this is absolutely amazing! What you do is really inspiring; I can only imagine what it means to those kids, seeing they can accomplish beautiful art & jewelry! My sister works with special needs children (younger kids, though—preschool.) She can’t do this level of art with them, however. She spends the first quarter trying to potty-train & teach them to speak, feed themselves, and eventually, hold a crayon. She is amazing with these kids, though, and is able to reach them in ways others can’t.

    I am in awe of what people like you and my sister do. You give so much love and patient instruction to these kids who need the extra help. Creating something really beautiful, like what’s shown here, gives them that sense of accomplishment, something they can feel proud of. It DOES make every minute worth it. Bless you for being such a selfless teacher. What a fantastic Spotlight this is!

  20. Brenda, 01 July, 2010

    You are such a wonderful person to take on special needs children.. In my eyes they all are special. All are very different and all have different needs. Just that some need more. Beautiful story Linda B! You have a huge heart! The children need people like you :)

  21. Carrie-N, 02 July, 2010

    What a great story! I love getting kids involved in the clay. My husbands siblings (a 12 year old boy, a 14 year old girl, and a 16 year old girl) spend the night with us and working with clay is the first thing they ask to do when they walk in the door. I am especially close with the 14 year old and she has gotten good enough at it that she helps me on most of my projects, and she goes to festivals and shows with me! My cousin also hired me to come to her daughters 8th birthday and help her and all her friends make bracelets!

  22. Cindy Lietz, 03 July, 2010

    I just wanted to come in here and add a few more thoughts…

    I truly feel that art crosses all kind of boundaries and gives a freedom of expression to all people, no matter the challenges.

    You may not know this about me, but my life has been blessed with being part of the lives of several people with mental and physical challenges.

    My Grandmother had such severe Rheumatoid Arthritis that her hands curled and twisted, resembling an Eagle’s Talons. I saw her courage and determination as she continued to create intricate petite-point and needlepoint artworks with hands that could barely hold a teacup. Her work was photographed and auctioned at grande fundraisers for the Arthritic Society, right up until her death in her 90’s.

    In my 20’s, I found my life greatly enriched when I worked for 4 years as a care-aid and cook in a care home for Schizophrenic and Bi-Polar residents. The experience gave me a love and respect for all those who struggle with mental illness. They became part of my family.

    And now more recently my adorable nephew has been diagnosed with Autism. (Which I view more as a quirk that requires some special training and support rather than an illness.)

    I tell you this because, through all of these experiences I have come to realize that we humans all have our challenges and strengths. That art and creativity is our common ground and our freedom from our struggles. That no matter our background or skills, we can each immerse ourselves in our art and that it can release (and distract) us from our pain or difficulties.

    Thank you all for your love and understanding for each other and your incredible courage to try new things and express it through your art. Makes me feel very proud and happy to be part of your lives!

    PS: This comment is also in support of the AWESOME suggestion from Peggy Barnes about how it would be great for everyone to share a bit of biographical info about their lives. Thank you so much Peggy for posting this idea. It’s AWESOME… oh I said that already :-). The link by my name will take you to another bio post I did quite a while back, that reveals, “7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Polymer Clay Tutor.”

    Happy 4th of July to everyone celebrating the US Independence Holiday! And Happy (July 1) Canada Day to all of the crazy canucks here!

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