A quick disclaimer: ArtisticallyAbled is intended to function as an extracurricular program and not a clinical ABA program or formal educational experience of any kind. However, our complete art curriculum is developed with and overseen by a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA).
How are we an “inclusive” program?
1) Adaptive, modifiable curriculum
Something we feel distinguishes our art program from others — and what gives us the ability to foster such a wonderfully inclusive experience — is that one of our program directors, Megan Duffy Cassella, MA, BCBA, is an experienced Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
In other words, she’s a specialist in a teaching methodology called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): a scientifically validated teaching methodology that helps individuals develop meaningful skills based on the principles of behavior.
(A mouthful, we know!)
While Megan has spent the bulk of her career working with students with autism spectrum disorder, her ABA expertise allows her to evaluate the projects created by our art director and modify them for students in our classes who need adaptations to enjoy and feel successful in our program. We may use ABA to help us adapt our teaching approach, our students’ physical environment, their interaction and engagement with materials, and more.
It’s important to note that we only use ABA techniques if/when/with whom they’re appropriate. This is not a clinical ABA program, and we only use some of the most basic techniques that are relevant within the context of our extracurricular art sessions. (These techniques can include but are not limited to: utilizing activity schedules (most often pictoral step-by-step guides), light prompting and hand-over-hand guidance, positive reinforcement, and project modification.)
We would be happy to discuss with you in more detail what ABA is, how we use techniques in our studio, and more — give us a call or email us at your convenience.
2) Collaboration with your team and existing program(s)
If your child does best with the help of an aide, therapist, or other paraprofessional (who may or may not implement specific programming or techniques to help their students be successful in a setting such as ours), they are more than welcome to participate in class with your child and run these programs in the context of our class! We’re also happy to collaborate with you and your team to ensure consistency between our class and the programs you already have in place.
3) Peer learning opportunities
We love when we have the opportunity to offer mixed-age and mixed-ability classes because we think that all children thrive when given the opportunity to learn from others different from them.
Research suggests that children with disabilities learn more, learn more quickly, and better maintain learned skills when working with typically-developing peer models than when they don’t.
At the same time, typically-developing peer models stand to gain invaluable life and learning experiences. Serving as peer models/leaders helps students foster awareness of, acceptance of, and empathy for people who are different from them; it aids in the development of leadership skills; it teaches cooperation; and it gives them experience working in groups of diverse people.
And if that research wasn’t compelling enough, studies also suggest that both students with disabilities and their typically-developing peers experience increased engagement with tasks when working together.