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A recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University confirms the fact that acting is a new form of therapy for children diagnosed with autism. The study consisted in comparing children who participated in a theater program for 10 weeks to those who did not. According to the research, children who actively engaged in the program saw an improvement in their social skills including their ability to interact and behave with others as well as their communication.
The art form of acting is extremely beneficial for children with autism since not only does it involve observing and interpreting ideas, but also expressing them verbally as well as nonverbally through body language. The theater program which the children attended is called the Social Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE) Theatre. This program in specific focuses on evaluating the social skills of children with autism.
The 30 children selected ranged in ages 8 all the way up to 14 and were about evenly distributed to the experimental group and the control group. Researchers found that those children participating in the acting program saw a vast improvement in their ability to remember faces due to new changes in their brain patterns. In other words, the activity of acting paved new connections and therefore new thought pattens as well.
Another benefit of participating in the program results in the children spending more time outdoors playing in groups with other children. They also were more communicative with their families at home and in their respective communities. The SENSE Theatre also introduced actors from another local university and paired them each with a child.
The peer actors were trained to provide supportive and engaging dynamic skills with their assigned child and allowed them to try out different acting methods such as improvisation or role-playing all on their own. The program finishes with a stage performance carried out by both the actor and the child. The data shows that it is possible for children with autism to improve the way they interact with the exterior world and acting seems to make those interactions smoother for them in the long run.
For additional information, please visit PsychCentral.
By Edgar Catasus
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