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This Exit, No Return

Using Art to Advocate and Empower Parents continued...

Readers’ theatre has been used extensively for advocating for various causes, the most popular in recent times has been the Tectonic Theatre’s Laramie Project (Kaufman 2001) about the slaying of a gay student in Wyoming. This play has traveled community and college circuits for the last nine years, converting more dispositions toward tolerance than all the news articles could accomplish. Many other plays for many other social issues have been successful in their advocacy for the people directly involved through discrimination (Knowles, G. & Cole A. 2008, Denzine, N. 2003, Grey, R. & Sinding, C. 2002).

In the following play, “This Exit, No Return,” each parent expresses individually their initial reactions to discovering that their child will grow up differently. They voice their fears, hopes, and dreams as they describe for an audience the frustrations and riches of their lives. The piece is intended to be used by groups to bring awareness to the general public and to teachers and other school personnel of the perception that children with disabilities are unique and whole individuals. While this may seem an unusual medium for advocating for children with disabilities, it has been proven to be very effective. This play has been read in many classes for special education and general education teachers.

Most recently it was read as part of a presentation at the 2009 national convocation for Kappa Delta Pi, an international honorary for teachers. Each time it is performed, the reaction is the same. There are tears of sadness, then joy. This play is intended for parent advocacy groups. It can be used in community meetings to bring a better understanding and respect for all children with disabilities and their families. It is only 20 minutes long and can be performed anywhere. The direct words of parents are the script with minor adjustments for parallelism and logical flow. The words are eloquent and articulate. It speaks directly to and for parents of all children. The parents used in the article are from

Appalachian Ohio and have fewer resources than many families in urban areas. They rarely have been asked to share their stories. They are very generous in sharing their lives with the world.

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