Exploring how live theaters promote participation for children with special needs
Parrish, Jennifer L.
Sherman, Michelle L.
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Aim: Increasing usage of cultural arts venues by children with special needs has created a need to optimize participation planning. A team of three occupational therapy graduate students and one faculty researcher was invited to provide a local children’s theater staff with training for supporting children with special needs. The team aimed to determine how their collaboration with the theater could contribute to understandings of best practices in community participation planning. Method: The team participated in theater events, conducted a facility assessment, interviewed staff members with varying role responsibil- ities, and surveyed staff before and after conducting a participation- planning workshop. Results: The collaborative approach to participation planning utilized strategies that provided practical applications for theater staff, including planning for sensory processing and regulation challenges, and provid- ing staff with behavior management and communication tips for inter- acting with children. Conclusion: Through training, staff participation planning evolved from reacting to present-day problems to proactively planning for future ini- tiatives. Staff expressed desires to have some of their own members become in-house experts for participation planning, allowing others to pursue the theater’s mission: providing live children’s theater perfor- mances and programs.