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Stella Kalb, left, Kate Capizzi, Jamal Burgess (in back) and Eric Mather-Burks take part in the SENSE Theatre program at the University School of Nashville. (photo by Joe Howell)

Children with autism take center stage at SENSE Theatre

BY: JENNIFER WETZEL

6/23/2011 - For children with autism spectrum disorders, social interaction can be difficult. Researchers from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center are using theater to study – and potentially improve – the social and emotional functioning of children with autism.

Antonio Johnson makes his move during one of the performances of Bridges, an original lyrical play that concluded the two-week SENSE Theatre camp. (photo by Joe Howell)

Antonio Johnson makes his move during one of the performances of Bridges, an original lyrical play that concluded the two-week SENSE Theatre camp. (photo by Joe Howell)

The Kennedy Center hosted 12 children with autism for SENSE Theatre, a theatrical intervention program created by Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry. The two-week camp was held in collaboration with the University School of Nashville Theatre Guild.

Camp participants joined with typically developing children from USN who served as models for social interaction. Additionally, the children with autism used video modeling at home to learn their lines and routines and practice social skill and emotional expression.

The camp concluded with two public performances of “Bridges,” an original lyrical play written by Corbett and directed by Catherine Coke, USN Theatre Director.

Corbett hopes to demonstrate measurable changes in social and communication skills and monitored stress levels of the children before, during and after the camp by measuring cortisol levels.

Corbett and Coke plan to offer more intervention productions through the SENSE Theatre, Kennedy Center and USN collaboration.
 

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