Creative resources for SEND students learning from home

3 June 2020

Drama teacher & SEND Network member Tom Underwood shares some arts and culture resources specifically helpful with home learning for D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse young people

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It’s been wonderful to see that, despite having to close physical spaces and gatherings, the arts and cultural sector has risen to the challenge and created a variety of online resources. As a teacher in a special needs school, I am particularly interested to see how arts and cultural institutions are supporting D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse young people.

In this blog I will highlight the work of a few organisations. This list is not exhaustive, and there are many outstanding cultural resources that I haven’t mentioned which would be enjoyed by, but are not aimed directly at D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse young people.

I hope this blog will be of use to both parents and teachers of SEND young people as they seek to bring the arts into home schooling.

Theatre

Flute Theatre Company work with young autistic people across the world using the plays of Shakespeare as a starting point. Led by Kelly Hunter, the company are currently producing a range of live and recorded resources for parents to use with children at home.

Everyday the company are live online making Heartbeat Hellos. This practice is at the centre of the company’s work and helps to soothe the anxiety of autistic young people by calming the erratic inner rhythms experienced by people on the spectrum. The live stream can be found on Instagram at @FluteTheatre, twice a day on weekdays (11am & 6pm) and at 6pm on weekends.

Flute are continuing to work during this time and constantly updating their website with resources. They are currently creating a series of games connected to Shakespeare’s play ‘Pericles.’

What is exciting about their online work is their ability to connect with new audiences and those who already know and use their methodology. All of their online games have two sections. Firstly, the ‘why and how’ introduced by director Kelly Hunter and featuring clips of the actors playing with participants. Secondly, ‘Play with us online’ films have actors playing the games and assisting participants to play from their homes.

Check out their resources:

Flute Theatre Company resources

Dance

Corali is a leader in dance created by artists with a learning disability. In addition to performing and touring they often work in schools using workshop facilitators with learning disabilities and exploring the relationship between dance and art.

They are currently producing a series of YouTube videos which can be used as home workshops.

They are also setting creative challenges which can be completed at home around drawing and dance.

Check out their resources:

Corali resources

Heritage

The Museum of London is always a fantastic school trip – multi-sensory, hands on, and nothing easy to break! They also have Hazel Vernon, a designated SEND Schools Programme Manager who expertly coordinates a wide variety of talented storytellers and artists with SEND experience. Therefore it’s no surprise that their online resources contain thoughtful and imaginative ways for SEND young people to engage with the rich history of London.

Of particular interest for Autistic pupils is the Minecraft virtual experience of the Great Fire of London. A quick google of ‘Minecraft and Autism’ reveals the extent that Minecraft is a special interest within the Autistic community, making this an ideal resource to teach the topic.

Other SEND specific resources include, handling historical object virtually. Apart from zooming in and spinning the objects round, they’ve also given each one a short written caption, along with a keyword signing video of the caption with audio.

Check out their resources:

Museum of London resources

Role models

In a previous blog for A New Direction I addressed the need for D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse young people to have role models within the arts industry.

“If our young people don’t see themselves represented in all the different parts of the arts industry they will feel voiceless. Having a role model shows them a future in the arts is possible but also allows them to see their voice can be heard.”

The plethora of theatre and dance productions now being shown online for free gives our young people the chance to see role models. Here is some of the work I’m aware of that is currently online for free:

  • Dancing to Art is a collaboration between Tate Britain and Corali. In this short film four Corali dancers design performances in response to four artworks at Tate Britain
  • Touretteshero: Me, My Mouth and I is part of the BBC’s Performance Live. The 60 minute film follows disabled performer Jess Thom as she performs Not I by Samuel Beckett at the Battersea Arts Centre. Please note: the film contains very strong language
  • Deafinitely Theatre are a deaf-led professional theatre company who perform bilingual productions in BSL and spoken English. Currently, they are making a different performance free ot stream every month

You can search for more resources on A New Direction’s LookUp platform – make sure to select the box for ‘accessible for SEND students.’

What have I missed?

As I mentioned before, this list is not exhaustive, and with some arts organisations having to furlough staff some of my usual contacts haven’t been able to get in touch.

If you are an arts or cultural institution or know of any other online arts and cultural resources that are focused on supporting D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse young people please do get in touch with me.


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Tom Underwood is a Drama Teacher at Garratt Park School. He is part of A New Direction's SEND Network, and is also currently involved in our Advocates CPD programme.