Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 3 Spring 2015 - Page 26

“The stage can act as a safe place to practice social skills and perspective.” work. How do we teach these social cues and body language nuances to those who just don’t pick up on them easily? Enter Stage Left… Thankfully, some people are using their love for theater to help children with autism and other social communication difficulties learn to match up these expressions and actions with the corresponding emotions or motives. There are several drama therapy or theater therapy programs that are popping up all around the United States and other countries too. Each program is unique, but most of them seem to use basic acting techniques in an effort to accomplish three main principles: encouraging communication, increasing social interaction and increasing imagination skills. The Magic IF… Acting allows people to try on different roles and explore who they are, but for autistic individuals, acting can be a way to learn how to engage with others and read nonverbal communication signs like facial and body language movements to tell if someone is friend or foe. The stage can also act (pun intended) as a safe place to practice social skills and perspective. This is where the ‘Magic If’ questions used by many actors can really help. The Magic IF technique is used when an actor is exploring his character’s feelings, objectives and motivations. IF this was really happening, what would I do? IF someone did this to me, how would I feel? IF this was said to me, what would I say? Exploring reactions and answers to if-type questions and then hearing how others may answer the same questions allows the child with social interaction deficits to understand a little better how other people can interpret things differently. Taking the MASK off… Photo courtesy of Festival Theatre Ensemble As you can see, there are many advantages to enrolling your child in drama classes, but perhaps you are wondering if there any disadvantages? Really, I could only think of one that may be a problem, and that is masking. Masking is when