There is a current movement to include those who have been assigned to special education classes in regular classes. This brings up the question, how may we include special ed. kids in tech theater? My answer; in most ways. Special ed. kids have various needs. As we all do. In my classes, I have kids who are afraid of heights. This does not make them special ed. compared to the others who can climb a ladder with ease. Each and every kid is able to contribute to the technical theater program.

Example problems


Possible alternatives/solutions

Students with specific learning disabilities.
Several students have been diagnosed with some form of dyslexia (including this author.)
  We could do an entire term’s work with out cracking a book. Technical drawings may not include any words or letters at all. Lines, shapes and pictures can usually be easily read by the dyslexic student.
Using highly colorful illustrations.
Students with Physical handicaps.

A hand that doesn’t work the way most do.
Limbs that may not respond in a “normal” manor.


Tools can be adapted to one’s hand holding ability. Hand tools can be modified in several ways. If you’ve been to a home kitchen supply store recently, you may have notice several cooking tools with extra large handles. Fashion? Futuristic design?
Actually, these handles were designed to enable older people to grasp the tool. What’s easier to grip; an egg or a baseball?

Mathematically Challenged.   Fractions can one of the most challenging for those who are mathematically challenged. using a tape measure, a saw and a piece of wood to teach fractions can be an awarding experience.

Lesson plan for fractions

Students with a hearing impairment.  

Considering that so much of theater is visual, hearing shouldn’t be a problem. Granted, communication may require the help of an interpreter… But, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words!
Adapting the classroom. You may wish to do some of the following. Wire in a light to each power tool so students can “see” that the tool is running. Most of us can hear a table saw running. Have a computer handy to type your communications. I type much faster then I write.
Use a flashlight or laser pointer to attract the student’s attention.


I’ve got students who simply need to keep moving. Surprisingly, one just loves to sweep. If we don’t have a lot of physical stuff to do, sweeping helps. He will focus on the sweeping in between my ramblings at the board.
Hammering & sawing work as well. But it gets a bit loud.

Here’s an excerpt of a report about one of my students written for the Asst. Principal of Spec. Ed.
John is involved in several aspects of technical theater. Skills he has learned include the safe use of many power tools, creating a basic technical drawing a building the object drawn, working as a member of a show’s running crew, and more.
John tends to succeed when he has clear cut procedures to follow. Example: John was cutting up scrap plywood to be disposed of. We have a couple of rules for this. All piece of wood must fit into the garbage cans so that they may lay flat on the bottom of the can.
Never strike a piece of metal with the saw blade.
Always wear safety glasses.
I was observing John work. (from across the room) He was cutting up scrap plywood that had plenty of metal staples in it. He would check each cut with his finger before actually cutting the wood. he would run his finger down along the imaginary line and if he would hit a staple he would re-adjust the cutting guide on the saw. If this proved to be a wasted cut, he would rotate the lumber to a point where he would be able to cut along a different line.
John’s use of fractions is coming along. He is able to measure and cut lumber to size. Often requiring fractions.
The next project assigned was to build a cabinet for storing drill bits. John had to draw this on paper, include measurements, create a list of materials, pull the lumber, cut it, and then build it. He had his problems, as all students do, but we now have a drill bit storage cabinet hanging on the wall.
He did have trouble building a small drawer to fit inside the cabinet. The concept of having it fit inside the space provided is developing.

The following are excerpts from an email discussion that occurred after I presented the question about what to do with a student in a wheel chair. I’ll add more soon.

To: Multiple recipients of Stagecraft <> Subject: Re: Recognize limits (Was: Student with MD in Wheelchair)

For info on subscribing, unsubscribing, and suspending your list subscription, go to the Stagecraft web site at:

Disabled students. (sigh)

This is one of those topics at which you just can’t win, especially if you yourself are ambivilent about it. I believe in both sides of the argument. Both have merit. But this touches a nerve in me, too, so I will make the unpopular argument.

I firmly believe in allowing, nay, encouraging students to do as much as they can. I think my job as a teacher is to help them learn to do more than they could before they came to me. That’s why it’s called Education! And Kristy at least knows some of what I have done in the past in a Union setting do ensure inclusion of all workers in the workplace.


I get REALLY upset when I am told I MUST accept a student into a situation I deem too dangerous for him or her, because they have a disability. Yes, that term is becoming frowned upon these days, even though it was adopted as the accepted euphemism for “handicapped” not so long ago, but DANG it, sometimes a limitation IS a handicap and not just a limitation, because it means you just CAN’T REASONABLY expect do something!

Back when I was more idealistic and inexperienced (whatever my condition is now), I was the Props Master for a University Opera program. One semester I had a blind student almost literally dumped into my lap. She was extremely militant about her right to accomodation, but “reasonable” had nothing to do with it. She had more than once filed complaints against the Music Department for discrimination, and the Administration was terrified of her. When she signed up for the Workshop class (yes, a “slave labor” class if you wish), she insisted she be allowed to do everything anyone else did, including using power tools. The Administration insisted we comply. She was assigned to me because no other supervisor was willing to work with her, and I at least was willing to try.

I “invented” tools for her: a “braille” ruler, accurate to 1/4″; a “blind” hammer (sort of a miniature pile driver consisting of a piece of conduit and a longer iron rod. Put the conduit where you want the nail, drop in the nail, slam it home with the rod.) I figured out a way for her to set up and use a radial arm saw (about 5 minutes per cut). I tried but was unsuccessful at building a guard for the band saw. She actually built an entire “setting” for a dance piece (it was a groundrow of snow fence “profiled” to look like rolling hills) using a portable electric “jig” saw. She’d measure each lathe with her ruler, and mark the cut with a keyhole saw.

She enjoyed it so much she signed up for the Workshop the next semester, too.

Was all that reasonable? I don’t think so. I sometimes had to spend about two to three HOURS preparing work for her for every hour she spent in the shop. Not always, but often. Time I needed to be doing other things. And when she was there, I spent ALL of my time with her, ingnoring all the other students, because I had to to keep her safe. That was not fair to the others, or to me.

The following semester I had another blind student assigned to me (because I’d already had one…) but she was a pianist and refused to risk her hands (which were also her “eyes”, after all), and was willing to accept jobs less risky. She too put in her hours, and contributed to the effort, but she was MUCH less stressful to work with!

I still look back and shudder at what might have happened if something had gone wrong, even for a moment. My older self says I was idealistic but STUPID to have been bullied into allowing the first student to take such risks. We BOTH dodged the bullet many times, and never knew it. After all, it was only a year later that I all but severed my OWN thumb on that same bandsaw I’d been trying to set up for my student. But neither of us were experienced enough to realize it then.

Today, several jobs later, I am a Technical Director for another University. An important part of my job is to make sure my students aren’t hurt while they work and learn. Never mind the legalities, I care about them! Keeping them safe is MORE important than getting the set done! I’ve seen too many co-workers hurt, and even one killed, while on the job. I don’t want that to happen to ANY student of mine! I have to decide every day if a task can be done safely by a student, be their limitation phyical, attitude, or simple inexperience. It’s my job to throw a student out of the shop if they refuse to work safely. DON’T TELL ME I can’t do the same for another student just because they are “challenged” and I’m limiting them somehow! I will do all I can to make sure all my students accomplish all they can and maybe even a little more. I will work with them to discover their capabilities, but in then end, it’s MY JOB to decide where the line is! That is how I define the “reasonable standard of care”, and I will apply it to everyone under my care, “challenged” or not!

To quote my Union “Sister” Kristi: >Can ya tell I’m a little “irked” by this???

Mick Alderson TD, Fredric March Theatre

One good thing about e-mail is that the “flames” are virtual!


Verified by MonsterInsights