Article by: Tonya White, Expressive Arts Therapist at NESCA
March 22nd, 2017
March 22nd, 2017
Many children who struggle with socializing and making friends need real practice - but with enough failed attempts, social situations can become a scary thing. Improvisational acting provides a context where a child can “pretend” to socialize within the structure of the games and with the support of counselors.
The games also come with a magic ingredient: FUN.
Many of the games involve making one another laugh, getting to play out a character or activity that you enjoy, and getting to share this experience with peers. When a child can feel playful and have fun, they are not acting from a perspective of anxiety and avoidance, but they are naturally motivated to engage. NPR’s All Things Considered recently quoted Jim Ansaldo, who runs Camp Yes And, a summer improv acting camp for teens with autism. Jim says, "What improv really does is create a safe and fun and authentic environment in which to practice, where mistakes really don't matter."
And not only can improv acting provide a safe space to experience social success, the games can be used to directly teach skills that are important for a child to learn and use in order to be successful in other social situations.
NPR’s All Things Considered also spoke with Rachel Magin, a doctoral student at the The Psychology Lab at Indiana State University who started a class for 6-9 year olds with autism using improv games to teach social skills. Rachel described a game where one child pulls a phrase out of a hat with an emotion written under that is asked to say the phrase while other participants guess the emotion. While very simple, this game allows the acting child and all of the other participants to practice and discuss together how to communicate and interpret emotions.
NESCA is excited to be offering Acting Games for Social Skills Development group therapy. NESCA’s groups are for children who need to build social skills, who wish to make more friends, and those who experience social anxiety. These groups are for children with Asperger/Autism profiles as well as other profiles such as ADHD, Anxiety, Social Communication Disorder, and more. To learn more about these groups please contact Tonya White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-600-8952.