By Michele Pickard, Instrumental Music Educator, Edison School of the Arts
While preparing to attend the Kennedy Center’s VSA Intersections Conference in August, I was full of worry about missing the opening days of school at Edison School of the Arts, IPS #47. How far behind and out of the loop would I be when I returned to Indianapolis?
As soon as the opening session for the conference began my attention was captured and I was hooked. The opening session was a wonderful presentation–Sesame Street and Autism: Seeing Amazing in All Children. I do not know a person my age who has not watched Sesame Street as a child.
Autism was the main topic that I focused on during the conference. There were many sessions demonstrating how to plan and conduct lessons through the arts for autistic children and children with moderate to serious disabilities. These sessions were a reaffirmation of how important it is to encourage special needs children through the arts to participate at their ability level, in their own creative way, and at their own pace.
I attended sessions in music, visual arts, dance, and theater. One outstanding session for me was All Ability Theater: Creating Accessible Theater Experiences for Performers of ALL Abilities. As the title implies, this session was an eye opener for me on how to plan and collaborate with the community–how to take the fear out of a theater production with a cast that all has special needs. The presenters ended the session with video from past productions and interviews with student actors. Wow!
Attending the conference gave me such an appreciation of how the arts impact students of many abilities. I am a Band and Orchestra teacher at a performing arts school, and I have included students with autism in my performing groups in the past. Having attended this conference, I now have a better understanding of methods that all of our staff can use to allow students of all abilities to learn and grow though the arts.
About the Author
Michele Pickard is the Instrumental Music Educator at Edison School of the Arts, Indianapolis Public Schools #47. She graduated from Indiana State University with a Bachelor and Masters degree in Music Education. She began her career in southern Indiana and then moved to teach in Indianapolis Public Schools 13 years ago.