Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Performing Arts for Special Needs IN ACTION!

                For my capstone project, I will be creating the framework for a hypothetical summer camp that serves children with special needs. The camp’s services will be provided predominantly through the outlets of music, theatre, and dance. The framework will cover details such as dates and times that the camp will run, specific classes/services/workshops that will be offered, what a typical day at camp entails, where the camp will be located and what the space would be like. In addition, I will be creating a website that provides all of the above information, as well as a resource blog for parents/guardians/family (this will be explained further in the “Breakdown” section of this post.

                I am creating this project because I am passionate about exploring the arts as a transformative tool for individuals with special needs and the communities that support them. In this area of the state, there are limited resources for individuals with special needs to actively participate in performing arts. Ideally, this camp would serve as an opportunity for individuals with special needs to immerse themselves in the experience of performing arts.  Although this is not the aim of the camp, I know that this camp would be extremely therapeutic and transformative for all participants 
Image from www.fcusd.org

  •          Schedules:

o   Time line of camp weeks
o   Schedule of a typical day at camp
  •          Classes, services, and workshops
  •          Location
  •          Space where camp will be
  •          Website

o   Includes all information above
o   Resource blog
§  Information about how the arts serve individuals with special needs
§  Information about where nearby services can be found (sensory friendly theatres, classes, after school programs, etc.)
o   Research page that explains how the arts improve quality of life
  •         Literature Search
  •          Project Paper
  •          Project PPT Screencast 

Capstone Project Timeline!

Connection to My Major and Interdisciplinary Studies:
               Well, I think the title of my major says it all in terms of how this project connects to my major: Performing Arts for Special Needs. Breaking it down further, this project relates to my major because it focuses bringing performing arts to the very specific audience of individuals with special needs, and explores what participants will gain from this experience. This is exactly the kind of work I hope to be doing with my degree once I leave Plymouth State University. To successfully put this camp into practice, I will need to draw from the areas of performing arts, special education, and psychology to create a program that appropriately serves my participants. Undertaking a project of this size and nature will prepare me to effectively implement the skills I have learned through the IS program here (and the courses included in my contract).

The Broad Model and My Project:
                  As I make more and more progress on the preliminary stages of my capstone, I am beginning to explore how I can use the first four steps of the Broad Model, and how it will affect my project. I am following the outline in Repko's text, and this is what I have discovered so far!

Step One; Define My Problem, and State My Research Questions:  In order for my research and project to be effective, my founding questions/problem must be well thought out, and dynamic. In Repko's text, he defines a "good interdisciplinary problem or research question" in two parts: 1.) The problem/question must be complex. and 2.) the problem/question must be researchable in an interdisciplinary sense (202). This is necessary because the topic is better suited for interdisciplinary study if it has multiple parts that can be analyzed through multiple disciplines. Also, having a complex topic presents you with multiple areas of research allowing you to come to a more in-depth, multifaceted solution. I feel that my area of research satisfies these requirements because my project topic has many constituent parts, and requires the insights from multiple disciplines. I now need to make sure to define the focus and scope of my study, and develop my research topic so that it answers the "so what" question (Why should communities care about this camp? What are the benefits of developing this camp?)

Step Two; Justify Using an Interdisciplinary Approach: Referring back two Step One, I can justify using and interdisciplinary approach because I have already established that my problem/research questions are complex, and require the insights from multiple disciplines. The most comprehensive way two effectively develop my camp cannot be done with one discipline alone; creating this program for individuals with special needs requires knowledge from disciplines such as special education, psychology, and performing arts. Through my preliminary research, it seems like this problem cannot be solved comprehensively through a single discipline, which is another defining factor of Step Two (212). Also, creating performing arts programs for children with special needs is not something that is mainstream, or easily available for families who are seeking them (yet). This means that this is an unmet societal need, which also justifies using an interdisciplinary approach while completing my project (212).

Step Three; Identify Relevant Disciplines: To expand on Step Two, I need to identify the relevant disciplines that I will reference for my project. As Repko suggests, I began researching disciplines that could be potentially relevant to my problem at first, and then got more narrow as my searching continued.  Through this process, I narrowed down my research fields to special education, performing arts, and psychology. These fields are very broad themselves, and I am continuing to whittle down what I will research within each field.

Step Four; Conduct a Literature Search: This is the step of the Broad Model that I think is the most complicated. Because my project is so specific, and is a field that is newly emerging, finding research that is relevant and useful is going to be a challenge. However, something that will be helpful to me is seeing what type of research and resources that organizations that have successfully created these programs used in their research process. Regardless, I am making sure that all information is current, reliable, and accredited. Something that Repko suggests that I will be utilizing during my literature search is separating my sources by disciplines. I have found information that focuses each specific discipline, as well as sources that combine two or more of the disciplines I am exploring (research on music therapy, or arts integration in special education vs. strictly human psych. or special education).

So far, the Broad Model is proving to be very useful in the beginning stages of my project! I am excited to see how refining each of these steps will help me further develop my project. 


  1. Chelsea,
    I am excited to see how your capstone project will add new ideas and expand upon details at the end. I think performing arts for children with special needs is a positive gateway for them to express their feeling and competent outward. It encourages their emotional outcome, as well as having cognitive benefits. I am interested to know what kind of performance or acting is available for them to improve their learning. I also think if you could add some performance examples that were presented from children with special needs it would enhance the audience’s understanding of your program.
    Breaking down on your blog helps readers to follow your plan better. Thank you.

  2. Hi Chelsea! I love your project! I have a nephew with special needs and this is the type of experience I think could be huge for him as he gets older. I am wondering what your take is on these types of camps across New England, the eastern U.S., etc? Are these types of camps very rare, or more common these days? I would think this is very much a niche that is needing to be filled, and your skill set/degree will very much serve that end. -Dr. O'Donnell

  3. Hi Dr. O'Donnell! Thank you for the reply! In regards to your question about the prevalence of these camps: Through my research, I am finding that there are more camps like this than I anticipated, but I definitely wish that there were more! From what I have found, this very specific type of resource is not widely available in New England.
    However, in larger states and other regions of the country, it seems like these services are more established. I have actually found quite a few in New Jersey, New York, and other cities like Baltimore, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. Sensory Friendly Theater and other specialized theater services are newly emerging and growing fields, and I feel that it will take a while before they become mainstream. Unfortunately, providing services for people with disabilities can get very expensive. Cost, and the appropriate training necessary to work with people with special needs, make it difficult to create new programs to serve these populations. However, I am a firm believer that the benefits of these programs outweigh the challenges of creating them. It is my hope that myself, and other interdisciplinarians who share my passion, will be able to lead the way in making these services more readily available, AND cost effective!

  4. This is wonderful, Chelsea! I wish there were more here about the theoretical framework from IS that you can use to inform your approach here. I also think we may want to chat about your use of the web; this will make an awesome website, but what happens when people in need find it and want to send their kid to your camp? That may sound funny, but I think it's a real concern, so we want to make sure we set the site up to help folks and not mislead them...which I think we can do if we brainstorm a bit. You are off and running here!