Gifted and Talented School Activities for Students With Special Educational Needs Through Drama Therapy

Gifted and Talented School Activities for Students With Special Educational Needs Through Drama Therapy

Jiaojiao Wu (School of Teachers, Guizhou University of Engineering Science, China) and Jana Vomočilová (Faculty of Education, Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1400-9.ch013


This chapter checks the background, brief history, theoretical base of drama therapy in the beginning, followed by introduction of the developmental process and seven stages of drama therapy. An example of evidence-based practice of drama therapy for a group of students with special educational needs in a wide range of settings and ended with a list of gifted and talented school activities was illustrated in the subsection of the main focus of the chapter. This heterogenous group included students with learning disability, intellectual and developmental disability, autistic spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down's syndrome. Research findings indicate that gifted and talented school activities through drama therapy has been especially effective with their verbal and non-verbal expression, social skills using, efficient communication, cooperation, self-confidence, and flexibility.
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Human beings are made for drama. From the perspective of development, when infants realize that they are independent individuals, they have two different entities. One is the actor, the self that thinks and perceives. The other is the role, the thought and perceived self. Human beings are connected with the inner world through thinking, and connected with social reality via behavior (Emunah, 1992; Jennings & Minde, 1993). The thinking and perceiving self is the originator of behavior. The thought and perceived self is the carrier of behavior. In this sense, it is in line with the characteristics of drama. Here is an obvious example like a little girl said to her teddy bear in a mother’s voice, “If you don’t brush your teeth before going to bed, you will have cavities” (Landy, 1994). Drama therapy generates in the mid-twentieth century in European and American countries(Jennings et al., 1994). Pioneers of drama therapy worked from many different perspectives to enrich theoretical base and practical experiences, which will be presented in detail in the subsection of brief history of drama therapy. In the contemporary era, drama therapy is extensively applied in school, hospital, prison and community settings. Drama therapist systematically and intentionally use of drama and theatre arts, techniques and processes to help clients extend the depth and breadth of inner experience while increasing flexibility between roles to move toward balance of mental world, which all promote self-integration through movement-based imagination, roles taking, projection, improvisation (Johnson, 1991). Drama therapy may be practiced between two individuals, a group, a family, or a larger community for any age group. In the field of special education, the remarkable effective application of drama therapy for students with learning disability, intellectual and developmental disability (Barton-Hulsey, Sevcik, & Romski, 2017), autistic spectrum disorder (Hodermarska, 2013) indicates that drama therapy raises their non-verbal understanding and expression, social skills, efficient communication, self-esteem and self-confident, and promote the well-being. The objectives of the chapter focus on a brief review of drama therapy and an illustration of how to develop school activities for students with special educational needs through drama therapy. In the end of this chapter, a list of gifted and talented school activities using drama therapy techniques were given for readership.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Flexibility: Be able to enlarge role repertoire, not to be engulfed or stuck on one or two roles and to be flexible in ability to move from one role to another.

As If: Distinction of a fiction and reality. It is important for daily life. This disorganization is typical for psychotics and people with mental disorder.

Role: As both an individual and a social being, all of us take different roles in real life. A mother is also a daughter, a wife, a teacher, a dean, a volunteer etc. We spend a large part of everyday acting out some chosen roles and wear clothes and behave we consider to be appropriate to that role. If we are not able to move between a wide range of roles, then often we get trapped in a single role which can prove to be inappropriate for certain situations.

Trust: It is necessary to evoke the feeling of trust in the beginning of every work with children, especially in group work. If they do not feel safely, they will not learn anything new from the work. For the people with disabilities, they have different perception and it could be a challenge for them to orientate in daily situation and communication. Hence, they need more support for trust building to feel comfortable.

Ritual: Initiatory, transition (baptism, matriculation, rituals of transition to adulthood) – important because of deep awareness of life change. Opening, closing the event, period, lesson (carnival, new year eve, religious rituals at the beginning and end of the pray) – awareness of difference between time periods. Invoke a role (robe, red nose, costume, uniform, mask) – awareness of being in role and not being in role.

Sharing: Sharing through mutual experience is one of few possible ways to communicate with people who have severe disabilities.

Nonverbal Communication: Nonverbal communication including using of gesture, body language, facial expression, voice and sound, is more truthful and natural. Especially for people with special needs, it is easier because their perception and orientation in situation are limited. And also, if they cannot say something and explain, they can use dramatic skills and show what they mean and what they want.

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