Caleb, who is non-verbal, was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, which affects his physical and cognitive development. Matt, a professional theatre artist and educator in the Twin Cities, exposed Caleb to theatre and dance at a young age. Caleb previously had few tools to communicate; but he began to use the physical movements, body language, and facial expressions he learned through the arts to communicate and engage with those around him. Out of this spirit and determination, Upstream Arts was born.
Since then, Upstream Arts has grown exponentially, drawing on field research and best practices to provide an arts-based approach to developing the social emotional and communication skills of individuals of all ages and abilities at every stage of life. We carry out programs in PreK-12 schools, Transition programs, and with adult disability service providers and other community organizations where individuals with disabilities are socializing, learning or working. We also present at conferences and conduct trainings for local professionals on arts-based programming and teaching methods that address individuals with disabilities. Our participants range in age from birth to 75+ and include those with a range of different disabilities, including those who are nonverbal; those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing or have visual impairments; those who have Autism, Down Syndrome, or other disabilities that affect their developmental and cognitive skills; and those who have invisible emotional and behavioral disabilities that affect their relationships and ability to learn.