Monday, March 4, 2013

Inclusion- How to Involve Special Ed Students in a Show

Many times while preparing students for a program, we may struggle with ideas as to how to help our students with special needs.  What accommodations will they need?  How can I best involve a student who has difficulty singing?  How can I work with the staff to best support the kids?  Here are a few ideas that may help a young performer prior to the show.

  1. Talk with the teacher and staff that help support the student.  Ask them to share input on where a student might need to stand for the show, (maybe for a quick exit if necessary).  By speaking with the staff, you might discover that the student relates well with another student and support from a peer, may be just what that child needs.  Asking a teacher or staff member for suggestions with the student can make all the difference.  
  2. Search for the child's strengths.  Although a student might not be able to sing all the words to a song, they might be able to introduce a song or sing a simple part of the song.  Can they hold a sign, or participate in performing simple actions during a song? 
  3. Be flexible. Don't expect perfection.  Keep in mind the show belongs to the students, not the adults putting on the show.  Nothing ever goes as planned and being flexible can help ease the stress for all involved.  Go easy of yourself. It's a show in the school cafeteria, not Carnegie Hall.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Most teachers have a strong desire for their students to succeed and because of this, are willing to take the time to help their students.  Maybe they could work on the songs in their classrooms outside of music class time.  Involve other specialists that the student may see at school.  For example, if the student has a speaking part, you could ask the speech therapist if they think this child may need extra help and if they could work on it during speech time.  Sometimes a student needs extra support from an adult during rehearsals and the show, ask the staff for support and thank them for helping to include their students.
  5. Be supportive AND realistic.  Some students might be able to stand and sing through the whole show without becoming inpatient, others may only be able to be on stage for a few songs.  That is OKAY.  The goal is to help the student to be shown in their best light.  If the student is on stage for the whole show, but becomes frustrated and begins to scream on stage, not only does this bring negative attention to that student, but it also disrupts the show for all the other students who have been working so hard.
  6. Be willing to take a risk because it's the right thing to do.  Let's admit it.  Most of the students on the stage will have many typical opportunities in their lives, such as going to prom, having a job, driving a car, getting married and so forth.  They will have chances in high school to be an active part of the drama club, marching band or athletics.  A special needs kid does not.  Although they might be allowed to take part in these clubs, most will not be truly accepted into these situations.  This is an unfortunate truth of life.  In elementary school, this is their chance to shine.  It is such an important gesture not only for the student, but for the families of these children.  It means the world to many of the parents of these kids.  Not everyone will support you, not everyone will agree with you.  But you have the chance to make a difference in a child's life because it is the right thing to do.
Many times, special needs students like to know and take comfort in knowing what will happen next.  Because of this, the use of a Thinking Map Flow Chart to display the order of songs in the show can really help to put a child at ease (as well as the staff member who is helping out).  Here is an example of the flow chart being used for the order of songs in a show.
Special Needs Elementary Music
Thinking Map Flow Chart for Order of Songs in a Show

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