Kids Love Musicals!: Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes in Special Education Environments
Objectives: The main aim of this study was to provide empirical support for the KLM musical theater program. The authors wanted to better understand if students were able to make gains in socio-emotional skill development during the program. A secondary aim of the project was to understand if the intervention program could be tailored to various ages and ability levels.
Methods: The KLM residency program was delivered to 5 schools across the greater Cleveland area to children ranging from 1st-12th grade. The intervention sessions were video recorded and student’s ability on variables of Eye Contact, Turn Taking, Sharing & Cooperative Learning, Engagement, Social Awareness & Self-Confidence, Symbolic Flexibility, and Emotional Understanding were coded by trained research assistants and interrater reliability was establish. Each variable was assigned a score on a likert scale based on a coding scheme adapted from previous research. Qualitative notes were also taken of student functioning. In total, 52 students were coded for the variables listed above. All students had previous diagnoses of either ASD or other developmental or learning disorders or delays.
Results: Results showed that across all schools and ability levels, students made gains in Eye Contact (p < .001, t = -4.156), Turn taking & Cooperative Learning (p < .001, t = -5.020), Engagement (p < .001, t = -5.054), Social Awareness & Self-Confidence ( p = .003, t = -3.188), Symbolic Flexibility (p = .001, t = -3.609), and Emotional Understanding (p = .009, t = -2.710) from session one to the end of the residency program. Further analysis also showed a significant main effect of school setting on variables of Turn taking & Cooperative learning, Social Awareness & Self-Confidence, and Emotional understanding, suggesting that ability level may play a role in gains possible during the intervention.
Conclusions: Overall, these findings suggest that engagement in a musical theater program does support the building of socio-emotional skills in children with ASD and other developmental disorders. Next steps include independent pre and post-assessments of measures of interest and delayed follow-up to understand the stability of these gains and their generalizability outside of the musical theater intervention.