Each year, special education students leave behind the security of high school to enter the adult world. While preparations for that transition from school to adulthood are difficult for everyone, they are especially so for young people with disabilities. Successful transition plans empowers students to become involved in affecting the policies of the agencies through which they receive services, and to contribute as equals in the life of their communities. Key to this empowerment is Self Advocacy. Self Advocacy is the ability to speak up for oneself; to define one’s own goals and to take action to achieve those goals; and to tell others about one’s needs and choices, including one’s choice to say “no” to things that others would like one to do.
VSAVT presents theater residencies at public and private high schools and for organizations serving people engaged in self-advocacy. VSAVT’s Self-Advocacy Theater employs dynamic learning creating performances derived from participants’ own experiences. Participants receive not only the benefits of lessons integrated into their lives, but public acknowledgment as well in final performances. Residency schedules can be adjusted to the needs of partnering organizations. For more information about bringing Self-Advocacy Theater to your school or organization, contact VSAVT’s Director of Theater Programming, Emily Anderson, at (802) 655-4606 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Colchester one student who hadn't yet found a positive voice in groups became the ambassador of good will for his group as the “MC” for the collection of 6 scenes that were part of the final performance. Though one student has trouble reading, he committed himself to diligently learning his lines. Three boys who had been seen as tough became leaders in creating a culture among the students of helping one another through difficulties. Their positive leadership demonstrated a level of caring that delighted all who witnessed it during performances.
In Swanton, at MVU, a boy who was adopted at age 7 from Russia found his voice as the author of several successful scenes about goals and problems. He was a proud, helpful performer who had contributed much to the creation of the final scenes. His parents were particularly grateful for that opportunity for him to shine.
In Brattleboro, our instructor described her group as “kids on the fringe who aren’t often given opportunities to lead.” These students were, for the most part, troubled by difficult home environments and some learning disabilities. By the end, they had gained enough confidence not only to perform but to teach theater games they had learned to younger middle school students. Though they “screamed in unison” when told the Program Director was going to take pictures, they allowed a video of their show to be taken and liked it so much, they invited another class of their high school peers to watch it and then learn the theater games.