Arts Education Is Critical for Students with Disabilities


At VSA, our mission is to ensure that people with disabilities—specifically students in grades K-12 and emerging artists up to age 25—have opportunities to learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts.  We believe arts education is critical for students with disabilities.  You, as a parent, guardian or caretaker, should invest in, advocate for, and participate in the arts education of your child. Here’s why:

Arts education develops critical 21st century skills such as creating and innovating, listening to and building on the opinions of others, practicing problem solving, and developing empathy. These skills are crucial for academic and professional success.  In the arts, these skills are conveyed through engaging learning experiences where the student’s voice, intuition and feelings are valued.  For many students with disabilities, these creative experiences provide opportunities to exceed expectations through the expression of unique perspectives.  And the collaborative nature of many art forms encourages students to learn to work with peers, form relationships and solve problems.  Thus, the arts offer students with disabilities unique opportunities to demonstrate understandings in ways that they may not experience in more traditional academic settings.

A growing body of research demonstrates positive life-long outcomes for students who have rich arts experiences. Music education and skills acquisition is linked to greater executive functioning skills, theater education is linked to verbal and literacy skills, dance education improves fitness and health, and the list goes on and on. All you need to do is Google “value of arts education” and you will find a veritable treasure trove of literature supporting the assertions above. Here’s one link I’ve been sharing recently:


But we should also advocate for arts education for its own sake. Singing a song in three-part harmony brings a particular sense of joy.  What else feels like dancing but dance?  And the first time a child makes a mark on a canvas that represents her unique perspective, she knows power.

At the Kennedy Center’s Office of VSA & Accessibility, we offer arts education opportunities for students with disabilities in theater, visual arts, and music.  We also provide resources for teachers and parents to provide art experiences at home, enter a competition or online exhibition, or connect with experts in your community who are passionate about arts education for students with disabilities.

Students with disabilities deserve opportunities to develop their creative voices, individually and collectively.

By investing in your child’s arts education today, you are developing her capacity to embrace and shape her future.

We want to be your resource.  Reach out!

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Sonya Robbins Hoffmann is Manager of VSA Programs at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.