5 Benefits of Theater Class for High Functioning Autism

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“Catelyn….” I hinted, looking in her direction.

Catelyn’s eyes got big, “WHAT?!?!” she exclaimed, hands flying out to the side.

“Go ahead.  It’s your turn.”

Catelyn took the crayons she was given when she sat down and slammed them on the table.

“YOU TELL HER!” she cried and put her head down on the table.

I turned to the waitress that stood smiling at the edge of the table, waiting patiently for our lunch order.

“She will have the grilled cheese, please.”

“Sure thing!  I will go put those orders in for you.  Your food will be up shortly!” The waitress smiled and left.

“Catelyn, what happened?”

“NOTHING!”

“It’s okay,” I soothed, “We will try again next time.”

 

Making eye contact and giving the waitress her order – that is something that can be very challenging for Catelyn.

But we found an interesting way to help her.

Benefits of Theater Class and High Functioning Autism

Over the winter’s, Catelyn always enjoys taking a class at our local studio for the performing arts.

For the past two years, Catelyn has taken an acting class.  This year, she decided to change it up a bit and went for the singing class, “Broadway Kids Cabaret.”

Last night, the singers all took the stage and put on many musical numbers.

The kids were all amazing, including Catelyn.  She did great.

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AND Catelyn felt great.

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Through the years we have found a lot of positives in Catelyn’s theater classes that help her in her personal life.  The top 5 benefits we have found include:

  1. Catelyn learns about social interactions. She reads scripts, she learns dialogue.  She learns how people interact and socially interacts by practicing the dialogue with others.
  2. Then – SHE ACTS IT OUT!  She is told how people appropriately respond in certain social situations.  She learns how to read other people’s behaviors in a script and then learns how to respond, not only with words, but behaviorally as well.
  3. She can take these scripted interactions and apply them to real life. She has a guideline of what to say or how to respond to someone, where before she would be confused.
  4. Watching the kids on stage also solidified one thing. They were all putting themselves out there in front of massive crowds.  That took a lot of courage.  The kids are all so open-minded and there to help one another.  No bullying, just support.  A perfect place for Catelyn and social learning.
  5. Hello confidence boost! What a tremendous feeling to get up on stage and perform!  And when the show is over: The clapping, the cheering, the camera’s – and we always give Catelyn flowers at the end.  She gets a lot of positive reinforcement and feels GREAT about herself!

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So when it comes to her lunch order –

The interaction is a predictable one.  And her menu order always stays the same.

We’ve learned that when Catelyn plans and rehearses, when she memorizes her lines, she can place her own restaurant order.

Not only at the restaurant, but she can apply this technique in other interactions as well.

The theater helps teach and support Catelyn.  And when she feels good, we are all very happy with her and for her.

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12 thoughts on “5 Benefits of Theater Class for High Functioning Autism

  1. What a great idea. Taking the role playing of preparation & making it more fun. I was in my high school theater & I know from experience that “drama nerds” can be a lot more accepting of eccentricities. Tell her not worry about the order, my older daughter wouldn’t/couldn’t call & order pizza til she was 19. She’s NT. 😜

    1. Theater has really turned out to be really great for Cate – in so many ways! Ha! I will tell her 🙂

  2. My oldest daughter with autism has been taking an improv class for the past 3 years. This past year, she signed up with our homeschool co-op to take drama. The improv class took a bit to get used to but once she got used to it, she loved it and has asked to be in it every year. It’s been good because the kids aren’t always the same so she has to adjust to new people and new improv experiences. That class is specifically geared towards special needs. The drama class has all typical kids in it. Her sister is in it as well and they’ve bonded over the drama class together as they have some parts together. It’s been so good. I know its a huge challenge for her, but she seems to enjoy it. They have a performance in May and I’m interested to see how it plays out because they both tend to be nervous with things like that. I’m hoping it goes well. But I like how she is able to act out things and put herself in roles that she wouldn’t normally think about. For instance, she has to play an angry DMV lady so she has to be loud which she isn’t usually loud. So it’s good for her to use her voice and to do things that are harder for her. I agree, drama, theater, improv are all good ways for kids to grow and learn confidence where they wouldn’t in normal situations.

    1. That’s awesome! It sounds like a great experience for both your daughters – and that’s pretty neat they get to do it together!

  3. Isn’t that amazing, when she is playing the part of someone she copes well. Plus it must increase her self confidence, very interesting. Has your oldest son got autism? He is a good looking young man, in fact all your children are beautiful. 🌹

    1. I agree! That’s Bobby – he is not on the spectrum but has some sensory issues. Foods, of course, and sounds mostly – for example, he still leaves the room when the vacuum comes on. Thank you!

        1. It is possible and does happen that a family has more than one child with autism. There are other wordpress bloggers that have multiple family members on the spectrum. Research has found that there are 100 risk genes for autism. When mixed with certain environmental risk factors – like a mother being exposed to pesticides during pregnancy, maternal illness during pregnancy or any period of oxygen deprivation for the fetus, for example, the chances for autism have increased. I got this info from the autism speaks website – here is more info about it here. Hope this helps! https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/faq

  4. It makes me so happy to read this! I’m a newly-minted Adult With Autism, and coincidentally a fan of our local theatre scene—I think I experience my most satisfying feelings walking out of a good play or movie—and have had an itch to try my hand at acting for a little while now. I took an improv class before receiving my diagnosis, and was terribly discouraged by my inability to “unclench” enough to cut loose in that kind of setting. But I’ve always wondered about trying scripted theatre. I’m happy you’ve seen it produce such positive results; I’ll have to make some time to try it out myownself. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Wonderful! Nice to meet you! I really have – theater makes my daughter feel good, and she really loves it. And I love that it also helps her in areas that she is challenged with, like socialization. That is great – good luck!!

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