Special learners - Theater

Please click on a recognized disability below to access information on the disability, strategies for working with students, and/or a list of resources.


Emotional Disturbance
Hearing Impairment
Intellectual Disability (Formerly Mental Retardation)
Other Learning Disabilities
Orthopedic Impairment
Specific Learning Disability
Speech or Language Impairment
Traumatic Brain Injury
Visual Impairment

Theater introduction

theatre.gifAs a Theater Educator for the past sixteen years with a Learning Disabled son who also struggles with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I have a special interest in the power of the Arts to even the playing field and offer a place where students who learn differently can excel. That is why I was so thrilled to see the work Bill Pearce has done collecting these excellent resources. I am even more thrilled to be asked to help with the Theater Arts portion. Most of what you see here comes from Bill’s pioneering work. I have added specific strategies for Theater Arts Classrooms.

I offer some words of advice. First and foremost, remember that the student’s family members are your best resource. Communicate with home and be certain you clearly understand the student’s abilities and challenges. This will not only improve the experience for everyone, but may be vital for the student’s safety. Theater classes involve physical and emotional work and you must know if there is any risk to the student.

My last piece of advice is to be flexible and creative. Theater lends itself well to experimentation. Experiment and discover what works - some amazing things may develop.

- Ms. Cory Wilkerson, Theatre Artist and Educator

If you have strategies to share, please add them to these pages.

Works Cited

Bailey, Sally Dorothy, Wings to Fly. Rockville, MD: Woodbine House, 1993.

Very Special Arts, 1992. “VSA Access and Opportunities: A Guide to Disability Awareness” http://www.vsarts.org/x523.xml, 1992.

Very Special Arts. “Arts Access Made Easy: Successful Strategies from the Awards of Excellence for Arts Access” http://www.vsarts.org/documents/resources/general/arts_access_made_easy.pdf

Very Special Arts: 2003. Ellis, Dawn with Mary Klassen-Landis and Daniel Gottlieb “A Broad Brush: Access and Arts Education Insights from School Districts”. October 2003


Bailey, Sally Dorothy, Wings to Fly. Rockville, MD: Woodbine House, 1993.

There is simply no better resource for inclusion strategies in the theatre arts classroom. Contains not only specific strategies sorted by disability type, but also lesson plans and resources.


The National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped – with campuses in Maine and New York City this non profit organization has as its goal to provide the disabled community with the communication skills necessary to pursue a life in professional theatre and enhance their opportunities in the workplace.


list of links to programs in the arts for special needs and special needs inclusion from teaching arts.


Very Special Arts adaptive resource list. Excellent listing of suppliers and organizations who offer adaptive equipment and strategies.


VSA arts is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. VSA arts is creating a society where people with disabilities can learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. Currently five million people participate in VSA arts programs every year through a network of affiliates nationwide and in over 60 countries. Their website includes teacher, artist and student resources and links.