Thanks to the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s power2give.org “crowdfunding platform,” The Ohio State University’s Shakespeare and Autism Project has an opportunity to expand our reach to more children on the autism spectrum. As part of our 18-month research mission, we are currently working with two Columbus City Schools. Raising a total of $9,474 through this initiative will enable us to extend the project to two new schools in February 2014, thus doubling its impact.
This unique research project is a collaborative effort with the Nisonger Center, the Ohio State University Department of Theatre, and Kelly Hunter, British actress and director with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Dr. Marc J. Tassé, director of the Nisonger Center and professor of psychology and psychiatry, is principal investigator of a longitudinal study with the Columbus City Schools on whether drama — particularly Shakespeare — can break through the communicative blocks of autism and whether this therapeutic intervention has long-term benefits. He is working closely with Ohio State Psychology doctoral candidate Maggie Mehling.
“In this intervention with middle school children with autism, we’re using Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest,” said Tassé, who is also a clinical psychologist. “It’s quite amazing to see how a Shakespeare play can be transformed into a therapeutic intervention that encourages students to express themselves and communicate.”
The idea originated more than 10 years ago with Kelly Hunter, innovator of The Hunter Heartbeat Method. Her workshop-based pedagogy uses Shakespeare’s rhythmic text, physical gesture and storytelling. “Eyes, Mind, Reason, Love” — the most frequently used words in Shakespeare’s plays — are at the core of the human condition and provide the foundation of our project.
“Two major themes underpin the work: the rhythm of the iambic pentameter, which creates the sound of a heartbeat, within which the children feel safe to communicate,” says Hunter. “The second is an exploration of the mind's eye, allowing children to explore imaginative worlds, which may otherwise be locked away.”
Hunter and Robin Post, faculty in Ohio State’s Department of Theatre and program director of the project, have trained a team of Ohio State graduate and undergraduate theatre students in the implementation of the Hunter Heartbeat Method. They are working closely with producer Dr. Lesley Ferris, distinguished professor in Ohio State’s Department of Theatre.
Tassé said, “The core features of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) targeted by this research are eye contact, social interaction and social skills, facial emotion recognition, spatial awareness and physical skills, expressive and receptive language, pragmatic language and nonverbal communication.”
“The work serves all children on the spectrum, including those who are nonverbal,” said Ferris. “This innovative venture impacts the lives of those with ASD, their families, teachers and aides. Acting students at Ohio State are given the rare opportunity to practically apply their craft as part of a ground-breaking research project that affects an ever-growing segment of our population.”
The program has been introduced to more than 50 children, including 14 in the successful 2012 pilot study. This proposed expansion will increase our impact in the mid-Ohio area.
The power2give fund-raising initiative ends January 15, 2014.
Donations are tax-deductible.
Chase Bank will match $1.00 for every $1.00 donated to this project.
The project link below includes a 90-second video illustrating how Shakespeare and Autism works as well as a list of donor benefits.
Donate to the project here » Shakespeare and Autism: Reaching More Children on the Spectrum
Project partners include Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Autism Treatment Network, Ohio State Nisonger Center, Ohio State Department of Theatre, Columbus Public Schools (CCS), Kelly Hunter.
For more information, contact Maggie Mehling at Margaret.Mehling@osumc.edu; or Robin Post at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greater Columbus Arts Council’s power2give.org
Nisonger Shakespeare and Autism website
Wexner Medical Center news release March 1, 2013
Shakespeare and Autism Project Receives 2012 Engagement Impact Grant news release
The Arts Initiative Shakespeare and Autism Project website
The Arts Initiative History of Shakespeare and Autism Project website
Ohio State and the Royal Shakespeare Company: Shakespeare and Autism Project website