Theatre for Autism
We provided 32 workshops improvisational theatre workshops to teens and young adults with autism. Many people with autism are interested and talented in theatre, but because autism is isolating, they miss out on the opportunity to learn and express this art. We chose improvisational theatre for this population because it teaches them to think creatively and provides on-going opportunities to practice social interaction and communication – their greatest challenge. It is also very fun! Many with autism suffer from depression. Improvisational theatre provides them with enough structure to enlist their participation and enough creative space to invite them to express their unique thoughts and emotions. We also maintained a traveling theatre troupe that created and performed anti-bullying theatre events, which provided several young adults on the autism spectrum with on-the-job training as performing ensemble actors.
Our goals for ‘Theatre for Autism’ were: to provide access to theatre training and expression to teens and young adults with autism; utilize theatre to teach communication skills to those with autism; utilize theatre to advance social change through our anti-bullying theatre events; utilize theatre to provide employment and vocational training to people with autism
These goals reflected our mission – to empower individuals with autism and create community through the performing arts. The social and communication skills taught in our theatre workshops enabled them to navigate successfully in our world, making it more possible for them to find and maintain meaningful jobs, develop friendships, and lead self-determined lives. Our traveling theatre troupe provided them with employment, further mastery of theatre, job skills and vocational training, and a chance to join with others to make a positive impact on the world.
The population we served were teens and young adults with autism. They have few if any other opportunities to master and enjoy theatre with their peers. Because people with autism are isolated and hard to reach, inviting them into our workshops is our ongoing challenge.
Our theatre workshops were a port of entry for people with autism, where they mastered the arts and learned communication skills. Our ‘Beyond Bullying’ events brought the young adults with autism in our traveling theatre troupe out into the community – empowered to use their talents to make a better world.
Our other target audiences were the young teens who have been the victims, perpetrators or silent observers of bullying that make up the troupe’s audiences. We found theatre to be a very effective vehicle in reaching teens, especially through our troupe’s use of humor and audience participation in their events.