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Drama for people with intellectual disabilities

For over 10 years, NIDA Open has offered a variety of performing arts education and training opportunities for people with an intellectual disability.

For over 10 years, NIDA Open has offered a variety of performing arts education and training opportunities for people with an intellectual disability. NIDA Open Course Manager Tricia Ryan recently spoke with a current student in the Drama for People with Intellectual Disabilities course, Victoria Scott and her mother Antonia about their experience of NIDA Open courses and Victoria's love of performance.

TR: What has been Victoria's favourite NIDA experience?

AS: Victoria started at NIDA as a child during a school holiday NIDA Open program in 2001 and since then she has done everything from TV presenting and film-making to puppetry and even comedy. Her favourite NIDA Open program to date, however, has been the musical theatre course this year with NIDA graduates Lincoln Hall and Emily Havea. She just loved it!

TR: What do you think Victoria has gained personally through her arts participation?

AS: It's given Victoria confidence and helped her develop friendships – I think it's simply terrific. Seeing how she responded to the puppetry workshop last year was amazing and she really enjoys anything with physical expression, movement or music. Victoria has been mostly non-verbal since her late teens, however we did see a small improvement in her verbal communication skills this year through the musical theatre course; it was probably because she loved the music and was so excited to sing. The end of term presentation was very moving.

TR: Have you seen any other benefits over the years?

AS: It's also been good for us as parents as we've been able to meet other people experiencing the challenge of raising a child with an intellectual disability. It provides an opportunity to regularly speak with parents who genuinely understand where you are coming from and also discuss ideas for how to better support your own child. It also gives you some time away from being the carer. My husband and I have a coffee date every Sunday during drama class so it's a joy, not a burden to make a regular commitment to attending a program such as this.

Importantly, Antonia also pointed out that disability programs in organisations such as NIDA create opportunities for people with a disability to be more visible and active in the community. This allows those with no experience of intellectual disability, an opportunity to interact and become at ease with people like her daughter Victoria. Through visibility comes awareness and greater acceptance of the needs and capabilities of people with an intellectual disability.

As for the future, Victoria is currently enrolled in a number of drama and dance classes across Sydney (she just can't get enough of the performing arts!) and this term, studies Shakespeare at NIDA.

The Drama for People with Intellectual Disabilities adult course is part of the NIDA Open term program, consisting of Sunday classes during four eight-week periods throughout the year at the Kensington campus. Bookings are essential.

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