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All Access Digital Arts Club: Activities + Plans for Neurodiverse Teens

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Language Arts And English +19 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

SCLDA's All Access Digital Arts Program (2012-2016) provided skill-building opportunities in digital arts and communications, creative expression, and social inclusion to a spectrum of teen learners in the Washington, DC metro area. Participating youth visited Smithsonian science, history, and art museums, created digital and physical artworks based upon a tailored curriculum, engaged in social interactions online and in-person, gained digital literacy skills, and developed friendships with other teens. Through once-per-month club outreach activities and summer intensive camps and workshops, students were exposed to communication, collaborative learning, research, and problem solving. The program served up to 20 youth per session, ages 14 through 22 with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. The youth experienced skill building, leadership opportunities, and social integration through Smithsonian resources, socialization opportunities, and computer skills. Youth participated in 1.) One- and two-week multi-media digital arts workshops whose outcome was student-produced artworks, songs, and movies that were shared with family and friends at openings and online via a social network; and 2.) Club activities--to build upon skills developed during the summer, and maintain social connections. 

All Access Club activities were offered to alumni of the summer workshops, and were held once monthly on Saturdays during the year to build upon skills developed during the workshop, and maintain social connections. During the club, teens practiced social skills through guided activities and Smithsonian museum visits, and produced original digital and hands-on art projects at the Hirshhorn ARTLAB+. Educators led the group in a series of planned educational activities related to the day’s theme—such as “the universe” or “oceans”.  Volunteers assisted club members to use social media, tablets, cameras and laptops to facilitate the digital experience. The activities and resources promoted digital literacy skills, and can motivate families to visit museums to learn, and for teens to build self-esteem. An evaluation session on the final day allowed teens to express their thoughts to the club organizers.

Special thanks to colleague Joshua P. Taylor, Researcher, Virginia Commonwealth University

Keywords: access, disability, accessibility, neurodiversity, special education, SPED, out of school learning, informal learning, cognitive, social skills, engagement, passion, creativity, empowerment, self-determination