The Hideout Theatre describes Improvisation, or Improv, as “a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene, or story are made up in the moment. Often improvisers will take a suggestion from the audience, or draw on some other source of inspiration to get started.” A Psychology lab in Indiana is gaining recognition for using improv as a way to work with children with special needs. The program Camp Yes And started in Indiana in 2015. In an NPR article, Jim Ansaldo, who runs Camp Yes And shared, “What improv really does is create a safe and fun and authentic environment in which to practice, where mistakes really don’t matter.”

Shaw, 8, plays an improv game with Erin McTiernan, an Indiana State University doctoral student. Shaw is a participant in an improv class at Indiana State University for children with high functioning autism. Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting

The improv classes are a great way of exhibiting how people communicate with one another. Improvisations calls for being put in different situations. When individuals with autism are put in these different situations they have to learn the right way to communicate their feelings which is indeed very beneficial to their development. Rachel who is a doctoral student at Indiana State conveys in her interview with NPR, “through our facial expressions, through the way our body language shows it, or just the tone of our voice.”

For a child diagnosed with autism, it can be hard to read and understand the feelings of others. Most children learn from modeling behaviors of adults and peers. With children who have autism this type of learning is difficult to do. Camp Yes And  is program works at these challenges. It is debatable whether improv can be considered a therapy but it is a creative way for children to learn how to to express themselves. The children definitely have fun doing the improvs and social improvement is evident. The program is still making strides but it had gained national recognition and is looking to impact more children on the autism spectrum.

The improv theater class at Indiana State University’s psychology clinic. Rachel Magin (standing) created the class to help children with autism learn social skills and practice reading others’ emotions. Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting

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