This site has been designed as an informational resource for arts educators. It is a compilation of information gathered from numerous sources. To learn more about each recognized disability and specific strategies for one of the specific content areas, click on one of the pictures below.

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Information and resources for teaching gifted students are on the Gifted Education page.

Mark your calendars for the Inclusive Arts Education Conference, July 11-16, 2010 at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. Updated information will be posted here as planning continues.

This site serves as a reference tool for fine arts educators as we strive to have the arts touch the lives of “every” student.

Ultimately, this website was built with the special learner and the arts educator in mind. Each disability is addressed separately providing:
• a definition in laymen’s terms of the disability
• a description of the functional difficulties of the disability
• adaptations for a general education classroom
• adaptations for the arts classroom, ensemble or studio
• assessment strategies for the disability
• links to find more information about the disability
• links for support groups

Special learners enter our classrooms, ensembles and studios every day, and while we the educators are very passionate about sharing the world of arts education, all too often the special learners are overlooked or “worked around” purely because we are lacking in tools, knowledge and information about the child and their needs.

This site is a collaborative effort of William R. Pearce, a music educator and former PMEA Special Needs Chairman together with Mary Lou Dallham – Visual Art Educator and Consultant, Holly Boda Sutton – Dance Educator and Consultant, and Cory Wilkerson – Theater Educator and Consultant. Updates were added in 2008 by Ashley Tait.

Have questions about this content? Contact William Pearce.


Federal Regulations

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Public Law 108-446, revised December 2004) - full text of the law
IDEA 2004's official website

State Regulations

Chapter 14 - Pennsylvania School Code regulations regarding special education
Special education section of the PDE website
The Gaskin case - In 1994, a group of parents filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education regarding the guidelines for Least Restrictive Environment. The settlement changed the way we approach LRE for special education students.


What do state and national regulations say about working with students with disabilities?

ALL teachers who are responsible for teaching a student with disabilities must, by law, have full access to the child's IEP (Individualized Education Program). In fact, all teachers are REQUIRED by law to read and implement each student's IEP. If your school district is audited and you do not have provisions in your lesson plans for each disability present in your classroom, you are in violation of the law.
As a side note, you are required to follow the same rules for Gifted Individualized Education Programs (GIEPs).

What if my administrators won't let me see my students' IEPs?

Write your administrator(s) an email outlining your need to see the IEPs, as well as the steps you have taken to gain access to the documents. If an audit occurs, you'll have proof that you tried to see the IEPs and were denied.

What does federal law say about discipline and special education students?

For the most part, you cannot remove a child from a classroom if a discipline issue occurs that is related to his or her disability. (This is another reason why all teachers responsible for educating special education students must have access to IEPs.) The exceptions to this rule are:
1. If a student violates the student code of conduct, he/she can be removed for no more than 10 consecutive days. However, an immediate IEP review must be done to determine if the behavior was caused by the student's disability, and appropriate steps must be taken to remedy the situation if this is found to be the case.
2. While on school property or at a school function, if a student possesses a weapon; sells, possesses or uses illegal drugs; or causes bodily harm to another person, he/she may removed for no more than 45 consecutive days.

Because each disability is different and each child with a disability is different, the laws and regulations regarding special education are complicated. If you have any questions about specific cases in your classroom, you should contact your administrators or your school's special education team first. If you still have question, PDE's Bureau of Special Education has a ConsultLine number - 1-800-879-2301.

Strategies That Work

On each page in this topic, a "Strategies That Work" section is located at the end of the page. If you are an educator or artist who has found a strategy that works that is not already listed on the page, please add it in that section. Include your name and affiliation (school district, arts partner, etc.)