Drama therapy is an approach to help people with a variety of challenges to improve their ability to interact successfully with others. It involves using theatrical exercises—improvisation, scene acting, physical acting, etc.—to strengthen social communication skills which can be both fun and effective.
Building on Strengths
People with autism, have the difficulty to speak and interact socially. Sometimes, language skills are echolalic—that is, people with autism repeat others' words verbatim. Some parents have noted that their children with autism can actually recite big chunks of dialogue from TV shows and movies, with precisely the same accent and intonation as the original.
Drama exercises provide an opportunity for verbal individuals with autism to build on their imitative strengths by actually learning, practicing and perfecting "lines" in a fun, supportive setting. It also allows participants to work on social improvisation, practice social skills learned in other settings, work on reading and using body language, and develop speaking skills. Even better, it offers participants the opportunity to actually become actors, star in a show, build confidence, and earn sincere applause.
Individuals may benefit by improving in the following areas:
self-confidence not only in performing but in interactions
improved self-esteem; pride in their accomplishments
improved recognition of emotions in others
improved identification and labeling of own emotions
new leisure time activity in a group where they can be successful
new awareness of volume levels and beginning modulation of level
new skills for functioning as part of a group
new skills for following directions
improved ability to interact with peers
Allotting family time is absolutely beneficial as it not only strengthens the bond between members but also provides a secure environment for children specifically on the spectrum to express themselves in a secure environment. Drama can work wonders in teaching social and communication skills and generalising the same with the rest of the family members. Below are a few activities that can be used to teach different communication skills.
Start with an Energizer (get them in the mood!)
Energizers and warm-ups aim towards helping individuals to unwind and relax, get them focused, and to simply set the atmosphere.
Have the members stand up or sit in a circle
Turn to the member on your left and ask a question - example: What is your favorite color? Or holiday or fruit or game and so forth
The individual gives an answer [example: red]
Individual who asks the question repeats the answer back to the group– example: What is your favorite color Lisa? Lisa: My favorite color is red – Individual repeats Lisa’s favorite color is red
All around the circle until everyone has had a chance to ask and paraphrase
Reflective questions could be asked such as – What similarities did you notice?
For this energizer you need a ball of wool.
• Holding a ball of wool have the child begin by stating their name or something pertaining
to themselves or something related to the lesson - example: My name is Nancy, I love to
• The member, is then required to pass the yarn to another student
• This process goes around until all the members have had a turn
• If time permits the yarn can be passed in reverse and the member is required to say the
name out loud along with a part of the statement given by the last member-
example: Nancy you love to walk
Mime exercises help further develop oral expression and self-esteem. By using attentiveness, individuals further develop their observational skills through focus and detail.
• The members are assigned numbers - then given a setting the child is familiar with
• Call a number and the designated member has to mime an action from the setting –
example: they may act like a cow. This continues till all the members have their turn. Once
done, all members can act like different animals in the farm just for fun
Pick a topic that the child and the members are aware of. Give action words for example and each member gets a turn to act while the rest need to guess the action.
Verbal strategies can be used to review lessons, or for predicting, analyzing material and so forth.
Pair Sound Effects:
• Divide the group into teams A & B. While team A makes a sound, team B will coordinate
the action of A’s sound
• A variation of this strategy could be; A makes a sound according to B’s action
The greatest way to motivate the mind is through storytelling because through this flows the power of imagination. Storytelling/ short stories on various topics not justs provides a pathway for imagination, it also teaches individuals to be appropriate with their responses in different settings. Creating specific social stories that are specific to the individual is beneficial for learning.
Reacting in social settings
Members can demonstrate different events that may have occurred (someone fell off a bike or slipped and fell) role- playing responses during such incidents builds familiarity in children on the spectrum.
To focus on emotions, write down a list or ask for suggestions from your family members (angry, sad, happy, etc). For the emotion "angry," have the members suggest situations that make them angry. Do this for all emotions. Draw chits and ask each member to pick one, encourage them to enact the given emotion while the rest of the group tries guessing the emotion.