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Professional Development: Theatre for Autism

A professional development presentation for teachers who want to build confidence and encourage reading in students who have Autism.
by

Jailyn Johnson

on 19 April 2010

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Transcript of Professional Development: Theatre for Autism

What's troubling me at work?


My students who have Autism do not read with fluency. My students who have Autism lack major social skills. They don't see reading as a fun social activity! Where's Frank Smith when you need him? My students who have Autism don't like reading to other students during circle time reading. Why Theatre for Autism? It can help improve readers'... emotional expression volume smoothness speed correctness Fluency Skills Social Skills emotional recognition
(that feeling you get when you share achivements or interests with others) Sometimes students sound like robots because of stereotypy. Stereotypy is the "frequent almost mechanical repetition of the same posture, movement, or form of speech."
(m-w.com) eye contact facial expressions peer relationships & peer contact Let's talk some more about those fluency skills Scientifically Based Reading Research...
tells us there are proven ways to effectively teach fluency
and Theatre for Autism
takes full advantage of these teaching strategies by using... Prereading & Rereading Repeated Oral Reading Partner Reading Fluent Adults Modeling Fluent Reading to Students And of course...Reader's Theatre that allows students to:
practice and rehearse a book
get constructive feedback from their peers
and perform in front of a live audience!
Who can help us? Who can we talk to? I found out how to help my students by talking to my supervisor, an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist. Talking with your peers is the easiest way to start professional development! She suggested I contact the International Association of Theatre for Autism (IATA). Why teach fluency? What's the IATA? It's an organization of educators, performers, and parents who are helping students who have Autism. They advocate using Theatre for Autism to help students with Autism express themselves by building social and educational skills. The IATA has a website, http://www.autismtheatre.org, that lists games that teachers can use to warm up the students. Growing Expressions is game
where the teacher says and expression, ex: "I'm so happy!" and the students stand in a line and each student makes a happy expression. The idea is to expand the expression so the last person has the happiest expression on his/her face. IATA also has an online e-journal that gives teachers information about
Theatre for Autism and how students react to it. Students like Theatre for Autism because... Did I mention....? It's a very structured activity! They are around other students who have disabilities or have trouble reading fluently. It shows how a little work can go a long way toward group acceptance and success! How can I be involved in improving Fluency through Theatre for Autism? Fluency is one of the "Big Five" Reading Instruction areas that is necessary for reading comprehension. Think about it: how can a student who is tripping over words or laboriously trying to read words possibly have enough "brain space" left over to think about what he/she read and connect to it on a personal level? First, emerge yourself in Theatre for Autism like I did. Educate yourself by looking at the IATA's link for the Centre for Applied Theatre Research and the link for Autism Theatre Resources. Second, find some willing students. I've got plenty... Remind them Theatre for Autism is a safe environment
where they will be welcomed and comfortable. Talk to them about why they don't enjoy reading to others.
Their answers might surprise you! One student told me he could follow along in the reading, but he still had a hard time knowing when it was his turn to read because he perseverated on (became repeatedly fixated on) his primary reinforcers (ex: paper towels, getting to turn on the lights, etc.). There are simple solutions:
1. Let the student touch the object he wants as long as he is reading. Fade this object out until he reads without it.
2. Have another student gently tap him to signal that it is his turn to read. Third, practice, practice, practice! Get the parents and siblings involved in helping the students practice and prepare for the performance. Have them make costumes and background for the stage. Use the games on IATA's website to warm up, and get the students motivated to keep reading. Since I do ABA therapy in the student's homes,
the stage was actually the living room! Finally, invite everyone to see the performance! Assess the students' perform by paying attention to their volume, expression, speed, and correct words per miniute. One student didn't like the books we were reading
so I had her pick out the book to read and perform from. She chose
It's Not Easy Being a Bunny by Marilyn Sadler. Do your students
have similar
fluency problems? Theatre for Autism is Readers' Theatre
with a heavy focus on student interaction and expression.
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