First, tell us a bit about Sensory Drama. Who is it for and why is it unique?
Sensory Drama is what happens when you reimagine traditional creative drama (facilitated group storytelling) to make it more inclusive of all kinds of learners and players! Sensory Drama classes have built-in moments for sensory engagement (seeing and hearing but also feeling, smelling, and moving our bodies through space). This helps class work for both students who are sensory seeking and those with sensory processing challenges, while simultaneously strengthening instruction for all learners, as it gives everyone more options for how to get and stay engaged! Other accommodations are provided as well. When we intentionally include young people with disabilities in our programming, we all win.
These Sensory Drama summer classes are specifically for students with disabilities. We feel that holding space for these students is always important, but particularly important right now, as they have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 initiated shift to online learning. We want to show these students and these families how much they are valued by offering these experiences, tailor-made for them.
What kinds of accommodations are made for different students?
So many fun accommodations! The biggest feature of Sensory Drama is, of course, its focus on multimodal sensory engagement, but we provide other accommodations as well. Once families register, all families will have access to a social story, detailing exactly what they should expect during class. This can help to alleviate anxiety and demystify the unfamiliar social situation created by distance learning. During class, we will follow a visual schedule to help ease transitions between activities. Also— and this is a big suggestion that came from consultant Talleri MacRae—we will be upfront about our expectation that not all families will stay connected for the entire class each day. Things happen, and we’ll provide families with enough structure that they can “finish” each class on their own time. Finally, we may provide accommodations for specific students’ needs, like modifying instruction for a physical activity for a student in a wheelchair or encouraging students who use Alternative/ Augmentative Communication (AAC) to use these devices.
What is the goal of a guardian and me experience? What does that participation look like for both guardian and student?
This is a guardian and me experience because Sensory Drama is about connection, and it’s sometimes hard to feel that connection through a screen! We connect when we share in sensory experiences (when we touch the same soft fabric or smell the same smell of lavender). Guardians (and other members of your household) can expect to be fully included in the experience. We will play together!
How has your experience been while teaching these classes in a virtual environment?
I’ve been teaching virtual classes for young people with disabilities since March, and I’ve been completely inspired by the transition to online instruction. Just as I am inspired by the challenge of accommodating for individual students’ needs, I am inspired by the challenge of this online platform— it has its own constraints and affordances and has made me more creative as an educator! When a change prompts us to question our assumptions about how things must be done, new possibilities emerge.