Scheme of work for students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and other Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Mark Jones
Saturday, December 1, 2018

Teaching Drama to students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) at KS3 can present challenges to some teachers of Drama who have only taught in mainstream settings. Students with ASD can struggle with some of the basic demands of Drama, such as making eye contact, communicating clearly, inhabiting other characters, improvising and using imagination in role play. However, even small steps towards success in any aspect of performance can be hugely beneficial and therapeutic for students with SEND, and is therefore extremely valuable for their personal and social skills development. Although the ideas presented here are intended to provide a wide range of opportunities for students to expand their limitations and develop exploratory methods of challenging their preconceptions and preferences through dramatic projects, it may be that for certain individual students or groups of students, it would be better to try several topics in succession until they find one that they feel very comfortable exploring, and spend a longer time working through that topic. Many students with ASD enjoy a lot of repetition of certain games and tasks, and it may be beneficial to them to incorporate repeating an activity numerous times over a longer period, so that they become comfortable with it and can gradually be encouraged to vary aspects of it. In general, these topics and activities will be easier for more outgoing students, and challenging for those with more intense conditions and limited social skills; activities should therefore be balanced to accommodate such a variety of needs within a class, and differentiated to allow all students to play a part according to their personal needs, abilities, and preferences. No students should be forced or challenged to take part in activities that may cause them upset or trauma; teachers must be sensitive to how far each student can be prompted to participate. This is why, if a topic is found that all students enjoy, it can be lengthened and its activities repeated, to allow students to have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience of drama activity, within a context that feels safe to them. Expectations of what these students can achieve must be different from those of mainstream school students, and should focus on each student’s individual qualities and interests, and how they can bring their unique skills and abilities to fruition in the context of dramatic performance. There is no point in trying to coerce students with ASD to work in ways that are not comfortable for them, as this may alienate them and make them feel distressed. Instead, the teacher must have an initial idea of the student’s interests and ways of communicating, and work to encourage these aspects to bring out dramatic tendencies that allow each to feel a sense of success and ownership.

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