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Event focuses on ‘positive art experiences’ for students with learning differences

Even minor adjustments can help students with learning differences have a positive experience with the arts, and the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire and VSA New Hampshire want to share ideas to make sure all students have such experiences.

The two organizations are inviting parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, aides and community providers who work with children with learning differences to an event tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Crotched Mountain ATECH Services in Concord.

The Making Creative Activities Accessible for All Learners program will provide information and an opportunity to discuss accommodations that can be made to ensure all children have positive art experiences. The event was timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year, said Frumie Selchen, executive director of the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire.

“What we’re trying to do is support families, teachers, care providers and community people in thinking about how they can use the arts and use them well to provide really good experiences for all kinds of learners, with particular focus on the kids who need some adaptive or modified learning,” Selchen said.

“The arts provide a way for kids to really succeed on their own terms, but it’s not necessarily intuitive how to use the arts in that way.”

It can be as simple as identifying a student who is having trouble gripping a paint brush, Selchen said.

“If you modify that paint brush, it could allow the student to hold it comfortably. We can talk about things on the simplest physical level,” she said. “Giving kids who often feel sort of disempowered an opportunity to make choices based on what it is they are able to control.”

The event will be facilitated by Deborah Stuart, a New Hampshire-based national consultant on arts and learning.

“For those with learning differences, the arts are an especially powerful tool for supporting developmental progress, strengthening behavioral and social skills, fostering self-esteem and enhancing feelings of well-being in every kind of learner,” Stuart said.

Participants will be given a practical look at creative ways to reach students of all abilities.

The session will also include a tour and overview of ATECH’s assistive technology services led by Director Dennis Bradley; a demonstration of adapted musical instruments and photography equipment by David Kontak, assistive technology director at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center; and a discussion with dancer Kelly Doremus Stuart, a longtime teaching artist and a parent of a child with special needs.

Preregistration is requested. To register, email programs@aannh.org, call 323-7302 or visit the Arts in Learning page at aannh.org. Crotched Mountain ATECH Services is located at 57 Regional Drive, Suite 7, Concord. An additional session will be held Thursday at North Country Educational Services in Gorham.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com or on Twitter@iainwilsoncm.)

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