THE BENEFITS OF BRINGING SQUEAK TO YOUR SCHOOL

BY PENELOPE CAYWOOD, EDUCATION LIAISON

Experiencing a live performance helps students gain a better understanding of how theatre works and how stories are brought to life. Seeing the characters of a play come alive sparks students’ own creativity, which helps them express themselves in other areas of their lives.

The character Squeak is neurodivergent, meaning that their brain works differently than a neurotypical brain. It is essential for young students to see diverse characters on stage to encourage acceptance, inclusivity, and understanding.

Neurodiversity is the range of differences in brain function and behavioral traits, such as the differences notable in students with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. Seeing neurodiversity portrayed on stage helps students feel represented, validated, and empowered. By recognizing the experiences of these characters, students learn to become more compassionate, understanding, and respectful of their peers.

Bringing a performance of SQUEAK to your school will reduce the stigma surrounding neurodiversity and create a more inclusive, understanding, and accepting environment for all students.

CORE STANDARDS: Health Education Strand 1

HEALTH FOUNDATIONS AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS OF HEALTHY SELF (HF)

  • Standard K.HF.2: Describe how to make friends and be a good friend.
    • Squeak struggles to make and keep friends. They work through difficult situations with other students and with a teacher.
  • Standard K.HF.3: Communicate respectfully with others.
    • Squeak learns how to appropriately communicate with students in their classroom by correcting negative behaviors.
  • Standard 1.HF.3: Demonstrate how to express gratitude, treat others with kindness, and respect differences.
    • Squish is a student in Squeak’s class. After an altercation, Squish comes to understand Squeak’s differences and Squish makes a positive connection to a member of their own family.
  • Standard 2.HF.3: Identify ways to set, recognize, respect, and communicate personal boundaries.
    • Squeak invades the personal boundaries of two classmates in the play. With the help of a teacher, they are reminded of better ways to communicate their needs and feelings.
  • Standard 2.HF.5: Describe characteristics of a good friend.
    • Squeak has struggled to make and keep friends. After working out their misunderstanding and talking about their shared interests, Squeak comes to the realization that Squish has become their friend.
  • Standard 3.HF.3: Describe how to interact with those who are different from oneself and demonstrate ways to treat others with dignity and respect.
    • Squeak shares how their brain works differently with two other students. Both students listen and reflect upon the situation and choices that were made. Although not explicitly stated, both students show respect to Squeak by listening.

CORE STANDARDS: Health Education Strand 2

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH (MEH)

  • Standard K.MEH.1: Identify how different emotions feel and how the body reacts to those emotions.
    • Squeak is in tune with what is happening in their body and shares with the audience what it’s like to be them.
  • Standard K.MEH.2: Practice methods to calm down (for example, deep breathing, counting to 10, mindfulness).
    • Squeak has been taught different breathing techniques to help them calm down. Squeak shares these strategies with the audience.
  • Standard 1.MEH.2: Demonstrate healthy ways to express needs, wants, and feelings.
    • Squeak is coached by their parent and teacher about how to express their needs and feelings. They model this in the play.
  • Standard 2.MEH.1: Identify the causes of different emotions and practice methods to express emotions appropriately.
    • Squeak talks directly to the audience to explain how their brain works and how expressing their emotions can be difficult at times.
  • Standard 2.MEH.2: Describe ways to respond to uncomfortable emotions or situations.
    • Squeak and their parent model how to stop and breathe to regain focus during a hectic morning routine.
  • Standard 2.MEH.3: Identify trusted adults (for example, parent, guardian, relative, teacher, counselor, clergy) to talk with about emotions.
    • Squeak models talking with a parent and with a teacher about their emotions.
  • Standard 3.MEH.2: Define positive and negative stress and identify how each type feels. Identify behaviors or ways to alleviate stress.
    • The first scene of the play involves a stressful morning before school when Squeak is looking for their shoes. They use counting breaths to alleviate stress, connect with their parent, and refocus.

SOCIAL EMOTION LEARNING (SEL) OUTCOMES

SEL OUTCOME 1: UNDERSTAND AND MANAGE EMOTIONS

  • Engaging in SQUEAK will allow students to identify and articulate the emotions felt by the characters, and they will observe the impact of emotions on the characters
  • SQUEAK also provides moments for students to practice using a coping strategy to manage their emotions

SEL OUTCOME 3: FEEL AND SHOW EMPATHY FOR OTHERS

  • This play also encourages students to consider another’s point of view.

SEL OUTCOME 4: ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS

  • Seeing SQUEAK may help students understand how to interact with others who are different from them.

SEL OUTCOME 5: MAKE RESPONSIBLE DECISIONS

  • Throughout the play, Squeak reflects on and takes responsibility for their decisions and how those decisions impact their social interactions.

SEL OUTCOME 6: SELF-ADVOCATE

  • With guidance from adults, Squeak learns to communicate more effectively and assert their personal needs and wants.

“My hope is that students, teachers, administrators, and parents –
anyone and everyone who watches SQUEAK –
will come away with a little more patience
and a lot more understanding of what goes on
inside the minds of kids whose brains work a little differently.”
– Playwright Tito Livas