After taking her child, who has a mild form of autism – Asperger’s syndrome – to social skills groups, Christina Campbell was struck by what the participants were being taught and how similar it was to her own background in theatre.
Campbell, the Surrey Arts Centre’s performing arts programming assistant, decided to develop Social Skills Through Drama because she believes acting can help children with behavioural challenges.
Campbell says the skills needed for success on stage are the same required for social skills. She says with both, people have to identify what they’re feeling.
Social Skills Through Drama is a program meant for teenagers “who have social difficulties with or without an accompanying diagnosis,” according to the program’s release.
Campbell adds most people learn social skills through osmosis, but for people with Asperger’s syndrome, it’s more difficult.
“It’s really a social skills handicap,” Campbell says. “They don’t learn it in the same way. They have to be taught.”
Leslie Jones is the lead instructor with the program and with 30 years of professional acting and experiences with teaching and directing kids and young adults, she sees Social Skills Through Drama as a positive experience.
“If you can use the drama to help the kids, then it really does work.”
Jones says her ability to use comedy allows her to reach out to kids who are shy and withdrawn.
“I have a real sense of satisfaction when I notice a student coming out of their shell,” Jones said.
This is the second time the program is being offered in Surrey, and this time around a movement teacher is being added to the classes.
Campbell says sometimes people who have social difficulties have “trouble being present in their bodies.”
“(The classes) are a great way for them to develop their own self expression.”
The six-week program starts April 8 and runs Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Surrey Arts Centre (137 Street and 88 Avenue).
The six sessions cost $120 and the program is for ages 13 to 18.
To register, call the Surrey Arts Centre at 604-501-5566 or go online at www.surrey.ca/register with the registration code 4391085.
If a registered teenager requires one-to-one caregiver help, then the caregiver should attend and participation is encouraged.