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Special Needs

February 13 2011 at 1:01 PM
from IP address

I'm wanting to do special needs awareness skits using puppets. I know that there are some other companies that sell props for this, however I'm not looking to buy anything like that right now. Any one have any suggestions on how to adapt a basic 1/2 body puppet to become a special needs character?

This would be for children at my church. I want to teach awareness to non special needs kids, and teach self esteem to the children of our special need ministry.

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Tony Borders


February 13 2011, 5:11 PM 

Check out Kids on the Block puppets and skits for special needs education at . It might give you ideas. Some places will sell legs. In the meantime you can build legs out of foam pipe insulation available at any hardware store. Cut a v out of the back for the knees to bend. I don't know the best way to attach them to feet.

B. Paul

Special Needs Puppet

February 14 2011, 2:56 PM 

I'm a teen vent that has Cerebral Palsy. Last summer I had a company custom-make me a little boy puppet that is supposed to have CP. He actually has little leg braces on his legs!

Tony Borders


February 15 2011, 7:58 AM 

Thanks for sharing! I think this is an important thread. I know I would value any ideas on how to use ventriloquism to share better ways to get along with someone in a special circumstance.

I used to use (without permission so I quit) a great poem by Shel Silverstein about a boy who could not hear who tried to let a talkative girl know that he loved her. It was short, sweet, and very memorable.

I think one thing we can do is encourage children to slow down and take a little extra time if they have a friend who has trouble keeping up. That friend works very hard to be a friend to them, so they can say thank you by slowing down and spending a little extra time.


February 15 2011, 5:38 PM 

Great thread and an important one. It's a tricky subject because presentation is everything. Some ideas:

1. Use a handicapped character in your show without bringing attention to it. Just use it as a normal character in a wheel chair, or with leg braces, or with hearing aids. The idea would be to normalize it in your show.

2. Have a handicapped puppet overcome some obstacle with the help of the audience suggestions, with active problem solving. Like trying to pick something up, but cannot without offering some help, etc.

3. Have a puppet discuss the difficulty of trying to get their wheel chair into a small restroom stall, and expound the benefits of having the larger handicapped bathroom stall, also hadicapped parking closer to the doors, etc. Helping people realize just how important these can be to someone that needs them.

B Paul do you have any ideas on how CP could be presented in a puppet show, or ventriloquist show?


Handicap situations

February 16 2011, 10:44 AM 

This is an extremely important point that we all should include some where in our routines, especially if your performing for children.. But adults need to reminded of these as well. You can use your puppet as a third party observer, what he saw and how he reacted to selfish people without any handicap problems who use the larger stall in the bathroom and cause his friend to have to wait... Or the party who parked in a handicap zone, leaving the handicap person to have to park a distance away and asking the kids what their reaction is to this type of rudeness. As far as someone with any muscle disorders, be it MD or CP what could you do to help your friend make their life easier. Hope I planted some seeds.

B. Paul

Re: Special Needs

February 16 2011, 5:52 PM 

Steve I haven't performed with it live yet, but here are some ideas.

If you are doing a children's show you can educate them about the disability, but show them how even though the character is disabled he can do lots of things.

If you are doing an adult show make the character poke fun and make jokes about the disability. (be careful if there is someone in the crowd that is going to be highly offended by it.) A great resource to watch to get ideas is a stand-up comic named Josh Blue. He has CP like I do and is popular for making fun of his disability.


Thanks y'all [yes, I am from the South]

February 16 2011, 8:35 PM 

One of my main messages is based on my life verse, I am fearfully and wonderfully made [Ps 139:14]
So, I want to:
1. Use puppets to teach special needs kids that they too are special to God and are worthy in His eyes.
2. Teach non-special needs kids [and adults] the same thing. Too often this population is overlooked by them.

Part of what made me think of this was one day I was walking Nathan around the church. Nathan is 16 years old, but due to a birth defect he is cognitively around 1 year old. Anyway, we walked past a room in the children's area that we USED to use for the special needs ministry, now used by two-year olds as a "story room". I took him into that old room [he seemed to recognize it] to give a quick assist to the one teacher they had.

As we walked out I heard a very innocent little one ask the teacher "What's wrong with him?". Now, I know that little boy did NOT mean any harm, so I was not at all bothered by this question and Nathan is not even aware of it. But it's not about what's wrong it's about what's right. This is what I want to teach.


February 16 2011, 9:26 PM 

B Paul, thanks for your insight. You having CP can get away with doing comedy about the condition like Josh Blue does -

However, do you think that someone who didn't have it, could do these jokes with a puppet? Wow, it seems to me that they would be perceived as very insensitive and perhaps even cruel?

I'm interested in how some kind of presentation could be done without making the actions or jokes of the puppet help the cause of CP, rather than hurt it.

Love the discussion!



My [rarely humble] opinion

February 17 2011, 8:33 AM 

Steve, I cannot speak for B Paul of course, but my opinion is that most people have an ability to laugh at themselves. In other words, let's say that you were doing a show for lawyers, and you made lawyer jokes. Most of them will laugh at you, but some take themselves so seriously, that they WILL NOT laugh at lawyer jokes at all. Similarly, some people with physical disabilities will laugh at your jokes about them, others will not.

I don't see where there's be much difference in their community, but I'd love to know B Paul's take on this.

How to teach love of all

February 17 2011, 11:50 AM 

This is the reason I say that anyone can do a third party routine. An innocent child sees another child with disabilities, and wants to know about them, why is he like that, does God still love him, ect. You can as a professional use a 2nd puppet with the disabilities and the questions could be directed at him. Making light levity would be ok, as long as its done politically correct...I have volenteered for many years for MDA and have been put to tears by what jokes these kids come up with regarding there disabilities. The best thing to do is to attend some MDA or CP gatherings and open your eyes and ears to what they say. You would be suprised. God bless them, remember to look at this situation through all venues. The best to you.

B. Paul

My Response to Steve's Question

February 17 2011, 3:10 PM 

Steve, I personally believe that a vent that isn't disabled shouldn't make fun of disabilities through a puppet period. Like I said in my earlier post there could be someone that can get offended. In this case we're talking about an entire audience. I think I have a better chance of getting away with making fun of it because obviously the audience will notice my non-normal walking as soon as I come out on the stage. Basically what I'm saying is the audience can immedately notice if you have a disability or not.

Same Page

February 17 2011, 4:43 PM 

Right, so we are on the same page. I didn't want anyone reading this to think that we were saying it was okay for a non-disabled entertainer to make fun of disabilities - unless you yourself have the disability, know your audience, and are doing a comedy program from that unique perspective.

Nevertheless, it seems it would still be good to have a spot in a non-disabled entertainer's show.... that could be used to respect a disabled puppet in ways that help normalize disabilities. Let's continue to explore those options....


Tony Borders

invisible challenges

February 17 2011, 7:07 PM 

One way to educate children would be to explain that not all challenges are easily seen. You could have a puppet who has trouble hearing and wears a hearing aid. Should we talk more loudly to that puppet or can he hear comfortably with the hearing aid? What does it sound like? The only way to know is to ask. Would you like it if I talked a little louder?

Another invisible challenge is a breathing difficulty. If someone tells us that they have asthma what does that mean? What should we do in case of an asthma attack?

Some challenges are really difficult to spot. Perhaps letters on a page look different to some of your friends. They may see gobdoey instead of goodbye.


February 18 2011, 8:27 AM 

Then of course there's autism etc.


February 18 2011, 1:25 PM 

There is a difference in making fun of someone with a disability and using a puppet to educate children to not look down on someone with muscle disabilities. But I can very well understand your feelings and I am not trying to make light of it.


February 18 2011, 3:43 PM 

Some of you know that I worked as a Psychiatric Technician with Autistic children and adults for years before starting my business. I often used puppets with do many therapists. Ax

Tony Borders


February 18 2011, 5:00 PM 

I actually have a birthday coming up on Monday for a girl who loves my puppets. She has seen them at her church a few times and wanted a birthday. She belongs to a group where several kids, including her, are autistic and so I plan to bring some very touchable, huggable characters.

Re: Special Needs

February 19 2011, 7:17 PM 

Tony and Steve, that is so cool. A few years ago, my church announced that they were going to start a Special Needs kids ministry. I was back in church for the 1st time in several weeks due to a broken ankle. My prayer was something to the effect of: Dear Lord, I'm gonna do this, please tell me if You don't want me to. Amen,.

I've been doing for almost 7 years now. My own background is NOT in special ed, but the fact that I have an "invisible" disability myself. At 42, I've only discovered the name of it a few years ago. It's called dyspraxia

I love working with these kids and I've learned much from them. A few years ago, I won a couple of Toastmasters contests in a speech about them that I called "Purple Plastic Piano People". I called it that after I saw one of my kids play Joy to the World on a toy piano.

Maybe I can talk my church into buying me at least one puppet to use with them. I'll have to see about that.


P-P-Platypus P-P-Problem

February 19 2011, 7:59 PM 

My Platypus friend seems to have a problem with stuttering, but we think that it was someone who was in charge of the orphanage that actually had that condition. He was told he was a "P-P-Platypus", and never knew his real name. If you notice he doesn't stutter on any other word, and the song is quite complex so... a bit of a mystery.


Tony Borders

Kids on the Block

February 20 2011, 12:04 PM 

I'm going to break the rule of not sending someone elsewhere to buy a puppet, particularly a non-Axtell puppet. But this puppet is perfect for this particular thread. Check out ebay and search for Kids on the Block puppet (or just Block puppet and it will come up.) There is a puppet in a puppet sized wheelchair.

Tony Borders


February 21 2011, 9:04 AM 

[linked image]

[linked image]

Of course, you can turn your Axtell puppets into an example of someone with special equipment as well. Dark sunglasses to talk about blindness. Put braces on the big mouth puppet. (different topic) Perhaps keep one arm tucked inside the shirt and behind the puppet so it looks as though it only has one arm. You can buy what we call coke bottle glasses at party stores, with the extra thick lenses. Devise a hearing aid. (Remember Dan Horn and Orson and Dan trying to turn up the hearing aid? FUNNY!)

Tony Borders

bigger picture

February 21 2011, 9:05 AM 

[linked image]

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