Spectrum Theater Classes Created for Children with Autism
Kate Cardaro, Director of Education at Two River Theater in Red Bank, talks about the theater’s first Spectrum Theater Classes for young people on the autism spectrum. The classes focus on movement activities and storytelling through theater games which can improve interpersonal communication, verbal and body awareness, and self-confidence through the art of theater.
"Welcome back. Making theater more accessible is a growing trend among theaters in New Jersey but one in particular in Red Bank New Jersey is specifically addressing kids with autism. And I have with me right now, Kate Cordaro who is the Director of Education at the Two River Theater in Red Bank as we said. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much. You're doing a lot of exciting things in the theater but we're especially excited about this autism program. What do you know that are the challenges for kids with autism in experiencing the theater? Yeah, we are offering a relaxed performance for our next show that's coming up. And what that means is you know there's ... there's an unspoken etiquette for being in a theater. Where you sit in your seat and you laugh when something funny, you cry when somethings sad and … You don't talk and use cell phones. Right. Those are the general rules that apply across the board. Cell phones. Right. Right. But kids with autism don't necessarily react in the same ways and they have unpredictable way of reacting to things. And so families who want to bring their kids to the theater or expose them to the arts have that challenge. Where they may feel welcomed or they may feel embarrassed. Umm. And they certainly don't want to be the one who is disrupting a show. Exactly. Right, but when you walk into a relaxed performance, the whole point of it is, whatever happens is fine. Everybody is going to be relaxed about it. So if a kid is vocal and reacts vocally, that's fine. And we have, we adjust the performance in order to make is more comfortable. Perhaps the house lights are up a little bit, more then it would be in complete darkness. Um, any performance that has loud jarring sound cues they are adjusted. Why? What is, what do we know about the light sensitivity, about the sound sensitivity that kids with autism experience that's different than what kids who don't have autism experience? So there's a spectrum, there are kids that will react in many different ways, some of them are just sensitive, extra sensitive to those jarring things. And so we just try to level the playing field a little bit and make it a little more comfortable. And let them know that whatever kind of reaction they have is fine. And we have a quite space outside of the theater that if something get overwhelming they can leave the theater and use figits and color..."