Students with Physical Disabilities in High School Drama Education: Stories of Experience

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Sills, Nissa
Physical Disabilities , Drama Education , High School , Teacher Support , Inclusion
The dramatic arts have been shown to positively benefit students with disabilities; however, there has been little research examining how students with physical disabilities have experienced drama. Inspired by my own experiences from high school as someone with a physical disability, this narrative inquiry sought to understand the experiences of people with physical disabilities in high school drama education. I began by writing and analyzing my own stories to reflect on my experiences and understand my personal transformations. Data were then collected through semi-structured interviews with three participants who had taken part in drama education during their high school years. I asked participants to reflect on their experiences, as well as how drama had transformed them. Their stories were then written as narratives to present themes that emerged. Finally, participants were given the option to write monologues in response to the prompt, “What does drama mean to you as someone with a physical disability?” I then performed and recorded the monologues to better understand the intentions of the participants and make connections to their stories. Findings identified that participants had a positive experience as they built social connections with their peers and were able to explore their identities through playing different character. However, participants also described feelings of isolation and frustration at being overlooked for roles due to their disabilities. This study aims to give voices to students with physical disabilities so that they may express their experiences and thoughts on disabilities and drama. It also seeks to help drama educators increase understanding how they can support the experiences of students with disabilities and how they can make their classrooms and programs more inclusive.
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