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School of Art Research Focuses on Intersection of Arts Education and Special Education

Posted May 6, 2013 | Madalyn Etzel
enter photo description
Kent State University School of Art
Associate Lecturer Juliann Dorff (in the
raspberry pink sweater) brainstorms
with her colleagues at a symposium
organized by The John F. Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts. Dorff was one of
50 people across the country identified as
thought leaders in the integration of the arts
and students with special needs.

Photo credit: Sharon Malley, The John F.
Kennedy Center

Kent State University School of Art Associate Lecturer Juliann Dorff was selected by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and its affiliate, VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, to be featured in a symposium that led to a national agenda to ensure participation for students with disabilities in rich arts and arts education experiences.

In the spring of 2012, the Kennedy Center contacted 50 people across the country that they had identified as "thought leaders" in the integration of the arts and students with special needs. These leaders were invited to the Kennedy Center in the summer of 2012 to convene a two-day symposium on this topic.

“During the symposium, they asked for individuals who would be interested in writing a white paper on the topic based on the areas of focus identified during our work,” says Dorff. “I submitted an abstract, and my work was accepted.”

The publication, titled The Intersection of Arts Education and Special Education: Exemplary Programs and Approaches, relates to the arts and the reciprocal relationship between educators of the arts and educators who work with students with special needs.

It also addresses art educators often lacking necessary information about students with diverse special needs. Special educators and classroom teachers, meanwhile, need information both about the arts and working with teachers of the arts.

Dorff’s chapter, “The Importance of Collaboration in Art Classrooms for Success of Students with Special Needs,” focuses on what it is professors and lecturers do with their art education students to prepare them for the type of students they might deal with.

When invited to the Kennedy Center last summer to discuss these issues, Dorff says she was thrilled.

“When I received the email, I was stunned,” says Dorff. “The people I met were so extraordinary, and it was a remarkable experience. Discussing how arts can be used to support the education of all students was a really powerful opportunity for discussion and collaboration.”

The work from the publication at Kennedy is still ongoing. The authors determined they didn’t want the dialogue to stop.

“I’m on the planning committee for a two-day conference at the Kennedy Center this summer,” says Dorff. “We put out a call for papers from people around the country. The selected people will be invited to present their research on this topic at the conference.”

Dorff is also working on research based on her students’ experiences and reflections about teaching at a juvenile detention center.