Teaching the Arts to Students with Special Needs: An Interactive Webinar Series


March 13; March 20; March 27


1:00 - 2:00pm ET


Zoom Chat

FREE for Guild members

NOTE: This series if FREE for Guild members; $35 a session for non-members, $100 for the full series. The first session has concluded but you can still register for the individual sessions below.

As the population of young people with disabilities in school and community settings continues to grow, teaching artists and arts educators find themselves working with students whose learning needs and profiles present new challenges. Teaching artists and arts educators are required to find ways to reach these students, but little training or support is available in this area.

This online learning series—facilitated by Rhoda Bernard, Managing Director, Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs—seeks to address this need by providing direct experience with practical strategies for working effectively with students with special needs in arts classes, arts studios, and rehearsal settings. Through first-hand experiences with teaching strategies, the use of case studies of individual students and teaching challenges, and discussions of a range of problem-solving techniques, participants will:

  • Learn about and discuss current research on arts education and special needs;
  • Examine time-tested strategies for effective teaching in special needs contexts and understand how to transfer these strategies to arts learning settings; and
  • Gain an understanding of ways that established effective teaching strategies in the arts disciplines can be adapted for students with disabilities.

Session 1: Setting the Context and Understanding Disability
March 13, 2019; 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET

Designed for participants that are new to the work of teaching the arts to students with special needs, this session will set the context by defining key terms and discussing important research. The presentation will include discussion of disabilities and diagnoses, person-first versus identity-first language, and the medical model of disability versus the social model of disability. With this background knowledge, the session will then begin to introduce general teaching strategies.

Session 2: Effective Learning Strategies in the Arts
March 20, 2019; 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET

Building off the context established in Session 1, this webinar will highlight more specific teaching strategies in the arts while creating time for more interactive discussion. The presentation will introduce two powerful frames for working with students with disabilities—universal design for learning and differentiated instruction—before discussing how they can be effectively operationalized in the arts. Using the interactive video chat format, participants will be invited to engage with and discuss the material. Register for Session 2.

Session 3: Deepening Your Practice Working with Students with Special Needs
March 27, 2019; 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET

Tailored for those with established knowledge of the work, this session will delve into advanced teaching strategies in the arts for people with disabilities. After exploring a more robust connection between the fields of special education and arts education, the session will provide in-depth case studies and troubleshooting techniques for specific scenarios. Following the presentation, participants will be invited to collaboratively discuss shared difficulties, successes, and opportunities for collective growth. Register for Session 3.


Rhoda Bernard, Managing Director, Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs

Rhoda Bernard is the Managing Director of the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, a catalyst for the inclusion of individuals with special needs in all aspects of visual and performing arts education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in government from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Music with academic honors in jazz voice from New England Conservatory. She earned both her Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Bernard regularly presents research at conferences throughout the United States and abroad, and she provides professional development workshops for educators in local, national, and international forums. Her work has been published in several book chapters and in numerous journals, including Music Educators Journal; Music Education Research; Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education; Mountain Lake Reader; and Arts and Learning Research Journal.