The Ohio State University Office of Outreach and Engagement announced on April 16, 2012, that Shakespeare and Autism: Intervention in the Columbus Community is among four proposals receiving a 2012 Engagement Impact Grant.
This ground-breaking research project is a collaboration between the Ohio State/Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) partnership, Ohio State Theatre and the Nisonger Center. Partners include Lesley Ferris, Theatre and OSU/Royal Shakespeare Co. programs; Marc J. Tassé, Psychology, Psychiatry and Nisonger Center; Mary Ey, Columbus Public Schools Student Support Services; and Amy Hess, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Autism Treatment Network.
Taking its cue from the RSC’s innovative Stand Up for Shakespeare pedagogy, the project engages the question of whether drama — particularly Shakespeare — can break through the communicative blocks of autism and whether this therapeutic intervention has long-term benefits. This project includes a full, randomized control study of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study will begin with community partner, Columbus City Schools, in autumn 2012 and continue through spring 2015.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that drama-based intervention is a useful tool to improve the core symptoms of ASD in children and adolescents. However, such intervention has not been tested in a large-scale, randomized, wait-list control trial.
The team will collaborate with Kelly Hunter, a leading RSC actress, who has worked with children and young people with ASD for 20 years. Her signature approach, the Hunter Heartbeat Method, pairs the recitation of Shakespeare’s rhythmic language with physical gesture in a way that is accessible to those with ASD.
Kelly Hunter and Robin Post, Ohio State’s project director, have trained a team of Ohio State graduate and undergraduate theatre students in the implementation of Kelly’s method. This group has been involved in a pilot project working with a group of middle school children with ASD, and the pilot has provided the foundation for the full-scale study. A new team of undergraduate and graduate theatre students will receive the training, and this team will work with the new group of children with ASD while the proposed research is conducted. Plans are under way to develop a service-learning course at Ohio State to ensure that this work continues into the future.
The team’s achievement will be recognized at the 9th Annual James F. Patterson Land-Grant University Lecture on Wednesday, May 16, at the Archie M. Griffin West Ballroom at the Ohio Union. On the same day, the OSU/RSC Program, the Nisonger Center and the Department of Theatre will host a reception and presentation by Kelly Hunter on the 11th floor of the Thompson Library, 6:00-8:00 PM. See links below for more information.
Contact: Ben Lewis, Director of Communications
University Outreach Administration
614-247-7100 or email@example.com
Office of Outreach and Engagement 2012 Engagement Impact Grants
Nisonger Center Shakespeare and Autism event invitation
"Shakespeare and Autism" pilot project