What are the Benefits of Performance to Those with Autism?
Having been a drama teacher for over 25 years, and a performer for even longer, I have worked with many children, young people and adults on the spectrum who have a love of performance and are often very talented at it. Many of them coped very well with the nature of the classes and performance, which is often tactile, noisy and frenetic, but for some it was a definite struggle and it was only their love of performance that enabled them to continue.
I now have two children of my own who are on the spectrum, one who loves to perform, and I know the cost to her of forcing herself to do what she loves even though it is a real battle for her. It has a huge effect on her physical and mental health and she is often exhausted and can shut down after a performance or particularly difficult class. Her sensory sensitivity can make dance classes very difficult for her as the music is often too loud, and physical theatre and contact drama exercises can make her feel very uncomfortable.
I have also been running a mainstream performing arts school for five years now for children and young people aged 6-18 years and over that time we have had several students who are on the spectrum. Some, like my daughter, are able to cope with the classes but others have sadly left after a term or a year because the classes are often just too noisy, boisterous or busy for them and they just haven't been able to cope.
It is always disappointing when a student leaves, but to see a very talented, or committed and enthusiastic child or young person leave because, despite their love of performance, they just can't cope is a real shame. There is some very strong and compelling evidence out there that performance and imagination can help those on the spectrum, check out the imagining autism project, so why should they be excluded from taking part? Some testimonials from parents whose children were involved with the imagining autism project, which is part of research at the University of Kent, include:
‘He has gained in his imagination; he is talking more, commenting on everything.’; ‘He is identifying emotions, and naming them.’; ‘He gave me a kiss and a cuddle, which is rare.’; ‘He is reasoning things out – we had a conversation for 15 minutes for the first time.’
Those seem like some very persuasive reasons for making performance accessible to children and young people on the spectrum, and Orange Frog Theatre Company is driven to provide autism friendly drama classes to enable everyone the opportunity to take part.
So just how can your child benefit from performance and drama classes?
Drama and performance can:
develop your child's confidence;
boost your child's social skills;
build your child's communication skills;
improve your child's eye contact;
empower your child;
teach your child life skills;
offer a safe environment for your child to make friends;
provide somewhere for your child to have fun.
If you are interested in signing your child up for our autism friendly drama classes you can book their place here.