AN EVALUATION OF ‘ODDYSEA’: A PROJECT BY SENSORIUM THEATRE, DADAA, Australia[January 2014]
This is an evaluation made by DADAA Inc. of the immersive sensory theatre experience, Sensorium Theatre’s Oddysea performances and residency within primary and secondary schools that cater to children with a variety of disabilities. The company Sensorium Theatre has utilized the concept of dramaturgy which they define as “the art of shaping a story into a form that can be acted, emphasising interaction and expression” in a previous performance in 2012.
The value of a creative activity for disabled students is evaluated using DADAA’s six evaluation criteria which were used in this report to display the value of a sensory theatre residency in a school environment. DADAA refers to this evaluation criteria as the “Six key dimensions of value” and they are enjoyment, engagement, sensory stimulation, positive responses and behaviours, independence/autonomy and tailored experience. Whilst most of these are easy to evaluate through observation, due to the different ways that some children with disabilities react to stimuli and experiences the evaluation team found it particularly necessary to observe the performance in person as well as reviewing video footage of performances.
The feedback from the students was on the whole positive, but the sensory theatre experience was not without its apparent challenges, with some children responding adversely to certain aspects of the performance. The multisensory approach however, utilises aspects of all 5 basic senses, whilst problematic for some children, allowed the performers to find ways to interact with children who were severely disabled and unable to engage with verbal and visual aspects of the experience. Some of the children were also quite apprehensive but the presence of familiar faces such as teachers and carers seems to have had a comforting effect an also helped the performers to identify windows to interaction with children who may at first not be willing or able to be involved in the performance experience.
When addressing the six dimensions of value defined earlier DADAA found that the program covered five of the prescribed values but lacked evidence of the performance tailoring experiences to each child. As a performance the benefits of the sensory theatre experience seem to engage with a wide variety of children with a wide variety of needs but this style of creative experience is not easily tailored to individual children as the performers are attempting to interact with a group of children rather than one on one consistent interaction. DADAA states the “tailored experience is tailored to individual needs/preferences of each child which makes it more likely of engagement”.
As there is very little documentation of sensory theatre due to it being relatively new in the sphere of disability education support but the benefits of sensory activities have been well documented with the importance of sensory play being explained thus; “Since all learning in the brain ultimately stems from sensory stimulation, the importance of our senses and of providing ample and appropriate opportunities for stimulation are apparent. For some children with special educational needs (SEN)” (Gascoyne, Sensory Play, Play in the EYFS 2011). So this sensory theatre experience looks to be a beneficial trend in Special Needs Education and associated services.
What questions does this reading raise?
Are there longitudinal studies of the long term effects of these sensory theatre practices?
How could similar programs be implemented that cater to adults? How would the program need to be modified?
How could these programs fit into a long term care and recreation program?