Friday, August 7, 2015

Arts and Special Education

Hello Friends,

I am writing from the Dog Days of summer – (why do dogs get blamed for the heat, I wonder). Anyway, I just returned from DC where I attended the VSA Intersections conference on Arts and Special Education. I saw a lot of friends there and took some opportunities to get caught up on what is happening in the VSA Network. I am happy to report that things are really percolating along as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. Yes, 40 years of challenging stereotypes and breaking barriers. And we do this with paintbrushes, dancing shoes, poetry, soliloquies and more!

Emma Goldman, 1869-1940

We presented a track on UDL – Universal Design for Learning – and helped teaching artists, researchers, and arts administrators gain new insights into the flexible curricular options available through the principles of UDL. It is always nice when you see people’s faces light up when they make the connection between what they are doing in the classroom and how these principles support their efforts to engage all students in meaningful learning experiences. Jeannine from VSA arts Rhode Island and I had fun introducing folks to Symbaloo and Voki, two online resources that can help teachers utilize digital formats to engage their media-savvy students in academic lessons.

I learned some wonderfully creative adaptive tool-making strategies to include all students in music and visual art classes from Elena Carnevali and Irene Savage, teachers at Henry Viscardi School in NY. I especially loved the “switch generated” concert, which enables students who use electronic switches to communicate to play music and the lazy Susan that gives students in visual art classes more independence in selecting their own materials.

Examples of adaptive tools

Art@Work, a collaboration between Michigan State University and Peckham (a vocational rehab center in Lansing), reminded me of the video “For Once in My Life” about the music program and Miami Dade Goodwill. However, Art@Work brings students at MSU and workers at Peckham together to make art and share stories. And then there was the Sounds of Intent presentation, where I learned that in Haiti they still have abandonment wards in their hospitals where children born with disabilities are left to die. But, there are advocates who rescue these children, and through music exploration and other education and life supports, help them to survive and thrive. We Skype'd with the children (see the video below), and that was fun!

video

Thanks for reading! There are people all around the world who are catching the wave of inclusion and the arts for all learners, and people with disabilities are helping to lead the charge.

Until next time, happy 25th anniversary ADA and happy 40th anniversary VSA!


Celia

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