Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Effective Behavioral Interventions Using Circus Arts Training with Developmentally Disabled Adults

Dr. Jane M. Roberts, Prof Deborah Ducett.

This project provided an opportunity to restore the human element to an institutional treatment program for disabled adults. A well-established link between recreational programs and improved quality of life for developmentally disabled adults prompted the researchers’ examination of an existing specialized program: circus arts training. Fifty developmentally disabled adults participated in a 6-month study of the effects of circus arts skills training on cognitive ability and on quality of life indicators. A cross-sectional time series research design allowed data collection points over a six-month period, in which adults with varying disabilities learned circus arts intended to enhance cognitive abilities. Cognitive abilities were operationalized as attentiveness, focus, and perceptual awareness.
A secondary outcomes measure concerns a subset of the circus arts trainers who are adolescents enrolled in a community-service juvenile probation program committed to reversing adolescents’ trajectory toward crime and delinquency. Creative therapy programs for teens and adolescents have long been associated with improved ability to relate to others. In this study, data were collected for the analysis of social skills enhancement, observable as changes in communication apprehension and anxiety during individual and group interactions. Thus, a secondary hypothesis asserts the potential for improved social functioning of the teen circus arts trainers themselves.
The paper concludes with an in-depth description of a training program for therapeutic recreational interventions with developmentally disabled adults using circus arts as a vehicle to enhanced overall quality of life, and to inclusion of disabled adults in the mainstream of society.


Dr. Jane M. Roberts  (United States)
Assistant Professor
College of Arts and Sciences
University of South Florida

Dr. Roberts holds a Ph.D. in gerontology and teaches in the School of Social Work at the University of South Florida. Research interests include health communication in clinical work, attitudes toward aging, and clinical treatment of Alzheimer's-type dementias.

Prof Deborah Ducett  (United States)

  • Disabled adults
  • Human interaction
  • Circus arts

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)