Performing Arts: Benefits for Students with Learning Differences

Posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Stephen Gaynor School has released a new video discussing the ways in which a performing arts education benefits students with language-based learning disabilities. The video, entitled “Performing Arts: Benefits for Students with Learning Differences,” features Stephen Gaynor School students and faculty including Head of School Dr. Scott Gaynor, Co-Founder and Director of Education Yvette Siegel-Herzog, as well as actor and Gaynor parent, Mark Ruffalo. Students at the Stephen Gaynor School, a pioneer in special education, experience transformative effects when participating in performing arts.

“Research has shown that the arts are an essential part of a child’s education. Theater arts in particular have shown to improve expressive and receptive language skills, comprehension skills in reading as well as math skills,” said Dr. Scott Gaynor, Head of School.

In the video, faculty members highlight the importance of the arts in any well-rounded educational program, but especially for students with learning differences like those at Stephen Gaynor School. Arts activities promote growth in positive social skills, empathy and social tolerance. As stated in the video, research shows that experience with the dramatic arts is particularly important to support the development of literacy skills, reading fluency, motor skills, social skills and motivation. The arts program at Stephen Gaynor School includes art, drama, music, and digital photography – all of which are highly integrated with the topics students study in class. The video emphasizes that participation in the arts is an important strategy for engaging and motivating students with learning differences.

Mark Ruffalo, Stephen Gaynor School parent and award-winning actor, reflected on his own experience as a student in the performing arts.  Ruffalo said, “People think that I chose it, but in a way it chose me.  It’s where I felt the most at home with my particular talents – I was dyslexic.” Ruffalo goes on to say, “My teacher, Stella Adler, used to say ‘we should have to pay to go to church and the theater should be free because that’s where we learn about who we are as human beings’. For kids who have learning differences, performing arts are just another avenue for them to express themselves.”

As shown throughout the video, Stephen Gaynor School strives to encourage students’ passions to help them realize success outside the classroom and to build self-confidence, allowing them to become more confident learners while having respect for themselves and others. Through this video, Gaynor hopes to show that the performing arts are critical for students with learning differences and are integral to the school’s highly individualized approach.