Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Eek. Stage Fright.

I started this post this weekend, and am now finishing it as I am home on a sick-day....so, if some thoughts are not fully developed I apologize.

When I first saw "Autism the Musical" I knew somehow it would impact my career; I wasn't sure at that point exactly how, or when, but I knew at some point it would become obvious to me. When I was a kid I lived for my drama programs and I have always known that I wanted to somehow recreate that for other kids. I don't think I would be where I am today if it wasn't for the confidence I developed on stage.

Recently in my career, as many of you know, I have considered the characteristics of Autism as barriers to be overcome, and have been coming up proactive and stress free ways of practicing these skills on a regular basis in my therapy-based school programs. My thoughts are...if you practice overcoming barriers, you obviously get better at it. That is always the goal.

As a centre-based practice that incorporates a lot of arts by our approach, I have seen what the arts can do to bring a child with Autism out of his or her own head and into the active world. After giving it some thought, I realized that drama is used in my programs more than I realized; rehearsal is a natural part of learning for children with Autism, we do it every day (5 to 10 times).

After a recent meeting with our clinical supervisor, and assistant, I found myself drawing ties between what was said about performance anxiety related to speech deficit and the programming I am doing for our new Drama Kids program. Essentially, the main point was that no matter how well-rehearsed a child is (or how rote for that matter), he or she may still suffer from performance anxiety when it comes to actual functional interaction. I think he meant that I should be playful in my programming and avoid rote learning, but also...I think...that I try to break down that barrier and increase the overall occurrence of comfortable language use, and make it reinforcing so its likely to occur again.

As I plan for our new drama kids program, I am struggling a bit to find ways to elicit and practice communication skills within a  group dynamic... without eliciting the dreaded performance anxiety. I know that as the kids get to know each other and us as teachers, it will become easier. Now how do I tell them that? 

One strategy I will use is breaking the group into small fragments (dyads or triads); meeting too many new friends all at once, is overwhelming even for me. Of course, we will meet to warm up and cool down as a group, but most activities will happen with just a handful of kids, so everyone is super involved.  Hopefully, this will help ease the little actors into their new friendships. With so many different learner profiles in the class, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic plays out. I have developed a whole curriculum's worth of materials and am certain that at the very least, we will produce happy and confident learners. Though I know social skills will always be the focus, and will always be incorporated to rules and expectations, there will be limited demands at first, allowing for true self-expression.

Any tips and/or advice is always appreciated.

No comments:

Post a Comment