What is Special Gifts Theatre?
Special Gifts Theatre (SGT) is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2000 to provide children and teens who possess a wide array of special needs (physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and learning) the opportunity to experience the joy and enrichment that theatre arts can bring. It was designed to motivate and honor the creative spirit in each individual. The program, though recreational in scope, is educationally and therapeutically based. This unique creative drama experience enables personal growth while breaking down stereotypes related to disabilities within the community at large.
Theatre arts provides an excellent opportunity for enhancing an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence; encouraging problem-solving abilities; strengthening listening, focusing, and attention skills; improving communication and fostering cooperation.
How it all began
Susan (Susie) B. Field, Founder of Special Gifts Theatre, received a B.S. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Illinois in 1977. After initially developing an Early Rehabilitation Program and a General Medicine and Surgery Program for Alexian Brothers Medical Center, Elk Grove Village, IL, she continued practicing Occupational Therapy for 25 years. Having three children whom all loved and benefited from performing in the theatre, she had first hand knowledge of the benefits that theatre arts can bring. Watching her children grow and thrive in the performing arts, combined with her experience in Occupational Therapy, led her to envision the opportunity for children and teens that possess a wide array of special needs to experience the joy and enrichment of the theatre.
Read how Susie’s dream transpired at the dinner table one evening by viewing an excerpt taken from chapter seven of Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We’re Going to Grandma’s.
Today, we have served over 1,115 children with and without special needs and have presented over 40 performances to audiences of more than 18,000 people. Currently, SGT offers three programs that include Musical Theatre (10-21 years old), Creative Drama (7-9 years old) and an Early Childhood Program (3-6 years old). In addition, a unique Peer Mentor/Buddy Program is provided that consists of typically developing peers who work one-on-one with an SGT student on choreography, classroom activities, stage work and more!
The children that participate in Special Gifts Theatre have a variety of special needs (physical, cognitive, learning and social). SGT focuses on the child’s abilities, not the disabilities! The audiences who see our final production in the theatre are amazed at what the children accomplish on stage, considering the limitations certain diagnoses would imply. We adapt situations to present the child on stage showcasing his/her strengths.
SGT continues to invest in the future. By offering additional programs, identifying new locations, and growing trained and experienced staff, SGT will continue to reach out to many communities and children with special needs. If your school or organization has a need for SGT to create a program or consult on ways to incorporate children with special needs in a current program, please contact our office 847.564.7704.