There is probably a more intellectual term for it, but here at 4th Wall we use the phrase “adjusted success” and it is the heart of everything we do.
Like typical children, our students with developmental disabilities come in a wide variety of observer (I’ve never like the word “shy”) to big ole hams and focused to bouncing off the walls. But we also have the added complexity of verbal to non-verbal and literate to illiterate, etc. So how do we assist in everyone’s success? We have adjusted success.
When doing a play we make sure to set up an environment where everyone (and I mean everyone!) is in a position for success. If they are having a bad day and don’t want to participate in the final showcase, that’s fine, but the opportunity and environment were presented and the choice is theirs on whether or not to participate.
How it works is drawing the line differently for all participants (case by case): if you are a student who is non-verbal your line is a gesture (like a shrug) or bringing a prop onstage. If you are a “runner” (an enduring term I use for those students who enjoy dashing for the door more than participating) your success is simply being (and staying!) on stage.
Now, adjusted success does come with a disclaimer– it is a LOT more work for the instructors. But we find it is essential for each participant feel fulfilled. Feel needed. Feel important. Because that, at it’s heart, is half of what theatre is–allowing the cast to express themselves in any means at their disposal. What’s the other half? Touching the audience and asking them to feel their same emotions.
With our adjusted success philosophy, we’ve yet to have a show in which the audience does not cry happy, heartfelt tears of appreciation. Success!