"The Arts Are For Everyone"
By: Sophia Falbo
With so many diverse people currently living in the world, there’s countless opportunities for people of different backgrounds, races, social classes, genders, religions, etc. to be represented in the Arts. All forms of art—whether it be theater, TV/films, dancing, singing, visual arts, or photography—should be seen as a safe space where every person can fit in. All of these spaces should include people with special needs, more particularly children, who need that exposure into various different forms of art early on in their lives. In an age where we are striving to make everyone feel included, it’s important that we do not forget about special needs children who are truly lacking adequate portrayal, depiction, and engagement in the Arts.
For so many of us today, we can spot people who “look like us” in the movies and TV shows we watch daily, even if representation is far from perfect. However, that is most often not the case for children with disabilities. Wouldn’t you think it can be quite difficult to feel comfortable in your own body and your own self when you don’t see others like you? You don’t have examples in theater and television to idolize? Aside from the viewership perspective, it’s extremely vital that special needs children have their own creative outlet as a way to express themselves and their imaginations. Whether this is through a painting class, a choir lesson, or hands-on photography practice, special needs children should have endless opportunities, just as any other children would have, to explore this! Additionally, kids with special needs should be able to discover their artistry in environments with children who don’t have disabilities. This integration could create additional happiness during their days, some of which can be filled with hours of physical therapy, isolated one-on-one learning, and multiple after-school teachers to help them further their education. Society must embrace the uniqueness of special needs youth, elevate their stories, and practice institutional equity.
From the perspective of a teacher of the Arts, I have witnessed how magical serving the Arts community can be; it instills such confidence in special needs children as they discover their talents. There’s nothing more rewarding than watching a new child experience that rush the Arts can bring, from learning a new dance move to picking up a paintbrush for the first time. It’s those small feats that accumulate and build up to giant victories, which are worth so much more to a child with special needs, who may have slightly more difficulty understanding something new. Personal growth and development is essential for any child to have at a young age. Exposure into numerous fields in the Arts is what can make such a difference in the life of a special needs child.
The Arts transcend language, geographical, and intellectual boundaries. It should be seen as a community aimed towards exposing people to diversity and cultivating self-assurance in those who need it. More importantly, the Arts should be a place where everyone can be their authentic selves and share their various passions for such beautiful crafts with others. Not only that, but the Arts can help raise awareness for many special needs conditions that are less-popular and known in the media. Through something as small as an hour-dance class, both children and adults can learn about disorders that don’t get nearly as much attention as they really deserve. Through the actual art forms themselves, combined with the other children and adults who are active participants in that artistic lesson, special needs children can feel safe, welcome, and understood.