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Drama Activities for Adults with Learning Disabilities

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Adults with learning disabilities are sometimes excluded from drama activities due to their perceived limitations. However, involving them in drama activities is a great way to develop communication skills, public speaking, and overall confidence.

Misconceptions About Learning Disabilities

Unfortunately, there are misconceptions out there that suggest adults with learning disabilities cannot enjoy the theater or be effective actors and actresses. Actually, some of our most successful actors have overcome learning disabilities like dyslexia and dyspraxia. While some aspects of drama, like reading or memorizing lines, may be a challenge for adults with learning disabilities, there are plenty of fun activities involving drama that don't require reading. Drama activities can be a great way to help people with learning disabilities practice public speaking and engage in the more physical aspects of acting.

Improvisational Games

Improvisational games are great drama activities for adults with disabilities. They are ways to develop communication by encouraging listening and reacting as well as public speaking. It is also a way to promote creativity. The best thing of all is that they don't require a lot of equipment.

Three Props in a Box

Materials Needed:

  • Shoeboxes or bags to hold different props
  • Items to use as props such as hats or household articles.
  • Cards with different locations (e.g. commuter train, bus, restaurant, coffee shop, etc.)

Adults with disabilities can thrive in drama activities
drama class

Directions

  • Each team picks a shoebox with the props and a location card.
  • Depending on the ability level of the group, you can give them a set amount of time to prepare. If it's the first time you have done this drama activity, you may give them five minutes to talk before you start. If you have done it several times before, you may not give them any time to prepare at all.
  • Each team then has to use their props to act out an improvised scene at the location they drew for the game.

There are many variations on this improvisational game that can be played based on the ability level of the group. For example, you might have one team start the scene and allow others in the group to take turns interacting as a new character in the scene.

And the First Line is …

Materials:

  • Box of props such as hats or household items (optional)
  • Cards in a bucket or bag that contain the first line for the character

Directions:

  • In pairs or groups of three, each adult draws a line. This line will be the first line they say as their character in the improv activity.
  • If you wish, you can also allow them to pick a prop at random from a box.
  • The adults begin the improv by saying their first line in character. The group of characters interact until someone needs to be rescued because they have nothing else to say.
  • When an adult outside the group is ready to rescue someone, they can grab a first-line card and 'tag' the person out.
  • The improv continues until the majority of the group has participated.

Not all drama activities require speaking
theater

Drama Exercises that Don't Involve Speaking

Public speaking may be challenging for adults with learning disabilities. In these cases, you may want to engage them in a form of drama that doesn't require a great deal of talking on their part. These types of activities are great ways to engage adults in the physical side of acting, and eventually they might become more comfortable with public speaking.

Animal Farm

Getting adults with learning disabilities to speak in a group can be challenging, so you must find creative ways of encouraging them to participate. Animal Farm is a fun, silly activity for getting adults comfortable with speaking in front of each other.

Materials

  • Cards with different animals on them (preferably, animals that are easy to mimic). There should be multiple copies of each animal, enough so that there is an even number of every type of animal in the group.

Directions

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