There’s lots of evidence that suggest drama classes have a positive impact for kids in a variety of different ways.
Kids gain confidence, they learn to communicate better increasing their social skills which ultimately leads to better relationships. But do drama classes benefit children with ‘learning difficulties’, or for those on the autism spectrum? They certainly can. Acting skills and drama classes are really beneficial for kids who may struggle to engage in the mainstream approach to learning.
But firstly, what are we talking about when we talk about autism?
As of 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) increased the scope of what is considered Autism. For example, previously Asperger’s was considered its own diagnosis, whereas now it sits under the umbrella term of Autism.
Autism refers to a broad range of conditions, from highly skilled to severely challenged. Often it’s difficult to tell that someone is suffering from this condition. Depending on how autism impacts your child will depend on how drama classes can benefit them (or in some cases not).
Sometimes autism could even be an advantage in drama classes. It’s so easy to flippantly use the term ‘learning difficulty’ when often the term ‘learning difference’ is far more pertinent. Kids with autism may find learning drama skills easier than kids who may excel in a more traditional learning environment.
How often have you heard of successful actors,( or anyone successful) who have a learning difficulty? Often, rather than this ‘learning difficulty’ being something they had to overcome, these people credit their success to their learning difficulty. A learning difficulty can lead to creative and intuitive approaches to problems that haven’t been thought of before. So, often there’s no reason why someone with autism cannot belong in a mainstream drama class.
Often, particularly with less intense autism, outsiders are unaware that a person even has a condition. Symptoms may not be obviously observable, but the inner turmoil for one with autism can be crippling. This can make comprehending appropriate social skills painfully difficult. Drama class can help people with autism learn social skills, giving them confidence and more joy in their relationships.
Drama class can become a sanctuary.
Away from the threat of bullying and a place to make lasting friends. Drama schools often put on a number of productions each year. This gives kids the opportunity to see firsthand how the performing arts industry works. They learn real life skills that can lead to a fruitful and rewarding career.
In cases of more severe autism, drama classes with a focus on development rather than performance may be more suitable.
For parents, it is important to let teachers know that a student has autism. There shouldn’t be any shame around this. Kids with autism possess strengths and skills that are often simply misunderstood. The more a teacher is able to understand a student the more they will be able to help that child.
For example, kids with autism often don’t like to make eye contact. However, this is often dramatically improved when the child plays a character. A key motif in drama classes.
Social skills often do not come naturally to kids with autism. Social isolation is one of the things that makes autism so painful. In a safe environment – like developmental drama classes – kids have can socialise in a way that’s different to ‘normal’ social settings. Gaining feedback on appropriate social interaction is priceless for kids with autism. They are life skills they can take with them wherever they find themselves.
How will you know if it’s right for your child?
The main thing that will determine whether drama classes are right for your child, is whether they enjoy it or not. Drama classes can be confronting and frightening. This is important to recognise. It is worth sticking with a drama class for at least a semester. As the environment and processes becomes more known and faces become more familiar the fun increases and the fear diminishes. To overcome a challenge like this also builds confidence. However, to know whether it is helping or not, enjoyment and joy is likely to be the number one indicator!
Do you have a child that you think could benefit from some Drama classes? Get in touch to find out what O’Grady Drama can bring to your child.