Program expanding that uses theater to help autistic children - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Program expanding that uses theater to help autistic children

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Vanderbilt researchers have been studying to see if involving autistic children with theater can be a form of therapy.

Now, the results are in, and doctors say they are very promising.

Dr. Blythe Corbett has spent years studying children with autism. She's also worked as a professional actress.

As founder of Sense Theatre, Corbett is studying how to improve the social and emotional behavior of autistic children.

"A lot of the children, when they first came into the theater, were pretty apprehensive. A lot of them stood back quite a bit," said Corbett. "It's inclusion through fun experiences and games. We never let them go off into the corner like some of them would like. We just keep bringing them on back in."

Children with autism are paired with actors, and they then work together daily on understanding things like facial expressions.

What we see as an acting exercise is a teaching moment that can make a huge difference.

"They are learning from expert models," Corbett said.

Researchers meet with the children before the rehearsals and acting workshops ever begin. They look at how they're interacting with people before, during and after the program.

And in the three years since the program began, researchers say the results are very promising.

"Significant improvement in social interaction, awareness and reduction of stress level in theater participants," Corbett said.

Researchers have been given a new grant to expand their work and are inviting more children to participate next year.

If you're interested in having your son or daughter take part in this program, visit: http://www.sensetheatre.com/.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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