“I HATE the cold! Why didn’t I buy that condo in Florida!” blurts out the diminutive four-year-old. She looks adorable with her contagious smile and beautiful curly blonde hair poking out from underneath the squirrel costume she’s wearing. She seems like any other vivacious 4 year old but she’s not. She has autism. And she’s having fun while learning very important life skills.
The best way to learn these life skills is through the dramatic arts. It allows special needs children to develop social skills and friendships in a fun, stimulating environment. The children are treated like a “professional theatre troupe” to produce a sense of belonging. By creating a production together, they naturally develop friendships and a feeling of accomplishment: they write scripts, build sets, choose costumes, create characters, and play theatre games together.
Puppets, skits, and other theatrical tools give many opportunities for the child to role-play with their fellow thespians. Social scenes are broken down and scripted so they can learn the innuendos and social cues for reciprocal conversation. Plus they get to play “social detectives” and look for clues about their scene partner. Then they share these clues with the troupe by talking on a microphone (which they love.) They make friends and build self-esteem in the process.
Enrolling your special needs child in a dramatic arts class is the best gift you can give your child. They will grow emotionally, cognitively and socially, as long as the environment is posi- tive, and nurturing…and of course occasionally “silly.” After all, laughter is the best medicine!