Professional Development: Arts Integration Techniques for Neurodiverse Learners


Free registration for Rhode Island educators
Professional Development: Arts Integration Techniques for Neurodiverse Learners

Professional Development: Arts Integration Techniques for Neurodiverse Learners

FirstWorks presents a Professional Learning opportunity for teachers to explore how to integrate the arts as a form of accommodation for neurodiverse learners in classroom settings. 

Neurodiversity “describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.”¹

This opportunity is part of FirstWorks’ Raise Your Voice initiative to celebrate differences. Our goal is to inspire teachers to use the arts as a tool of expression to help neurodiverse students use their voices. This workshop focuses on arts-integration techniques including accommodations and best practices for designing classroom lessons. Teachers will learn from and work with local educators and neurodiverse artists to: 

  1. Describe neurodiversity and the different types of learners in any given classroom. 
  2. Learn from neurodiverse artists about how their relationship with art, barriers vs. accessible accommodations to integrated-arts experiences, and how they use art in various situations. 
  3. Analyze hypothetical classroom situations and brainstorm how to not only insert the arts to enhance curriculum content, but also develop differentiated accommodations to make learning more accessible and informed by various students’ needs. 

Additionally, we will share a resource list from which teachers can continue to learn ways to support neurodiverse students better, which will, in turn, enhance learning experiences for all students.

This VSA program is provided in 2021-2022 under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.



This hybrid event will take place in-person for Meeting Street faculty and staff only. All other RI educators are welcome to join virtually and must register online to participate via Zoom. If you require accommodations of any kind, please email ASAP, and we are happy to assist.


Featured Panelists:

Daniel Perkins (he/him) is an actor & founding member of Spectrum Theatre Ensemble (STE). He has acted in shows with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble including Henry (Light Switch), Graham (Importance of Being, World Premiere), Crumpet (Santaland Diaries), Martini (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest), Angelo /Quarter Bum (The Hotel Plays). He acted and created content for STE’s Spectrum Identity. He is a sensory friendly consultant for Trinity Repertory Company. He is an advocate for Neurodiversity in Theatre. He is the creator of the YouTube series “Autism Sings.” Daniel holds an Associates in Theatre Arts from Bristol Community College as well as a Bachelors in Communications from Bridgewater State University.


Ilyus Evander (they/them) is a disabled, non-binary poet, educator, and theatre maker from Providence RI. They have represented the Providence Poetry slam at several national and international tournaments including the National Poetry Slam, Brave New Voices, and the Women of the World poetry Slam. They are a two time finalist at the Capturing Fire Queer Poetry Summit and a 2018 FEMSlam Champion. Their work has been published by Button Poetry, The Poetry Foundation (Ours Poetica), SlamFind!, and elsewhere. Ilyus is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Heavier Than Wait (Game Over Books, 2020) and Good Mourning, Bad Dreams (Ginger Bug Press, 2022).


Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt (she/her) is a writer, consultant, public speaker, actress, and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry. Currently, she’s a co-writer on a popular children’s TV show, and the Autistic Creative Consultant for How to Dance in Ohio, a new musical premiering at Syracuse Stage this September! In May 2021, she finished a year-long internship with the Nickelodeon Live Action Casting team.


Jill Cyr (she/her) was born in Manchester, NH in 1976.  Cyr works predominantly in the medium of drawing, but her range includes painting, 3D mediums and digital media. Her artwork has a focus rooted in observation, color theory and conceptual meaning.  Cyr completed her BFA in Ceramics with Honors at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1998 and then earned her Master of Arts in Teaching with Honors at Rhode Island of Art and Design in 2000. She has taught art for the past 22 years in the Cranston Public Schools and serves as the program supervisor for the district. She instructed design for over two decades in the  RISD Continuing Education Pre-College program.  Her fellowships include Haystack Mountain School and Maine College of Art’s Feed your Soul.  She has shown her work in Boston, MA and Providence, RI at White Elephant Gallery, Sol Koffler and Woods-Gerry galleries.


Sam Zimmer – Moderator (she/her) is an educator, nature nerd, lover of creative expression, and the education program coordinator at FirstWorks. Sam has enjoyed working with kids of all ages in classrooms and non-traditional settings, especially outside! Her passions include climate advocacy/environmental justice and increasing access to both the arts and the natural world. She has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Fordham University and dual M.A. in Childhood Special and General Education from Bank Street College of Education. In her spare time, Sam loves jamming with others on her fiddle and movement activities.




Check out our other events here: