New Study Finds Theatre Can Help Children on Autism Spectrum

News   New Study Finds Theatre Can Help Children on Autism Spectrum
A new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders has found that theatre may help improve social competence for children with autism spectrum disorder. The study brings to light recent discussions and efforts in the theatre community in making theatre more accessible to people with ASD.

The pilot study highlights the efficacy of a peer-mediated, theatre-based intervention on social competence in 30 children with ASD aged eight to 14 years-old. Immediately after taking part in a 40-hour, 10-week-long theatre program, researchers detected immediate effects on social ability, communication symptoms, group play with peers and the memory of faces.

After a two-month follow-up period, effects on communication improvements were still being detected. See the full study here

The children with ASD were enrolled in the Social-Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE) theatre program, intended to help improve social interaction. As explained by Medical Daily, many behavioral programs for youth with ASD can fall short by not directly including interaction with peers, which can detract from the therapy. The SENSE theatre program, however, recruited especially social typically developing peers to take part and be expert social models, dubbed "peer actors."

A host of Broadway shows, including The Lion King and the The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, have made theatre accessible to audiences with ASD with specially altered performances. The latter being of particular importance, as its central character Christopher is thought to be on the autism spectrum, though it is never confirmed. Read about how the show's original star, Tony winner Alex Sharp, was inspired to support a program that helps young people affected by autism

Lincoln Center is among the latest in making theatre accessible to young audiences on the autism spectrum with its new multi-sensory theatrical experience, Up and Away, currently in performances.  The company is joined by the Victory Theater, which recently announced autism-friendly performances as part of its 2015-16 season

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