- Alex's Advice
- Family Fun
A few weeks ago, I received an exciting invitation.
I had the honor of being asked by the Princeton Dance and Theater Studio to serve as a Special Advisor to their Board of Trustees while they explore the possibility of creating performances for children with special needs. They are also considering offering some classes for the special needs population.
Of course, it is always a privilege to share my passion for advocating for children with different needs. More important is that, as the head of a school for children with complex challenges and as the father of a medically-complex child, I also understand what an impact the arts can have on children with challenges and differences.
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, music, art, crafts and dance can give students with learning challenges a chance to express themselves through different media and gain confidence along the way.
Participating in fine arts activities has the potential to build confidence and cultivate self-awareness in children.
The arts may even help children with different needs overcome some of the learning challenges they face by reinforcing motor skills, teaching them to express themselves in a positive way, enhancing coordination and helping them to memorize academic facts through song.
Most important: experiencing the joy, beauty and transcendence of music, art and movement is something that only the fine and performing arts can deliver!
So, as a parent, how can you get your child with complex challenges involved in the arts?
There are many incredible opportunities across the country, but here are some of our favorite places for families of all kinds to explore the fine arts:
#1: Art Reach
If you live in the Delaware Valley area, this needs to be your first stop.
The mission of this not-for-profit is to connect people with disabilities and the arts. They work with hundreds of organizations to create workshops, performances and many other opportunities for people with disabilities to enjoy the fine and performing arts. Get on their mailing list and then take a class, go to a performance or visit a museum!
This Philadelphia-based ballet company began hosting sensory-friendly performances, which are a truly wonderful experience.
My wife Natalia attended a sensory-friendly performance of The Nutcracker with our daughter Pearl this winter; it is still difficult for me to accurately describe what a beautiful and enriching experience this was for her!
Does your child want to draw and interpret masterpieces or explore a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?
No matter where you live, if you can travel to New York, it is worth the trip to experience a Metropolitan Museum of Art tour or workshop. This is, without any hyperbole, one of the finest art museums in the world, and it offers world-class programming for children of all abilities. (If you never thought you would see your child walk through a hallway of priceless vases, just come to the MET.)
I have been bringing children with complex challenges to workshops and tours at the MET since the 1990s, and I can say with certainty that they have thought of everything when it comes to accommodating visitors with different needs.
Located in Baltimore, this museum offers Sensory Mornings for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorders.
These free events occur four times a year, providing families with the chance to visit the museum during quiet hours not open to the public. The museum also hosts “touch tours” and multi-sensory tours that are docent-led and allow for visually impaired or blind visitors to examine art works by hand.
#5: de Young Museum of San Francisco (virtual experience)
Perhaps your child’s physical disabilities make attending a museum more difficult. Before you say that California is too far to travel anyway, check out de Young’s new Beam Tour program.
Through a Beam Tour, you can visit the museum remotely — all you need is a computer with a camera and a Wi-Fi connection. The program uses an ambulatory device known as Beam, allowing off-site visitors to see the art in high-resolution. The device’s microphone, screen and speakers enable viewers to interact in real time with guides or friends in the museum!
Now it’s your turn: has your family found a particularly positive fine arts experience? Let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.