Our objective is to develop better social relating, self-advocacy, and social communication skills through real-life scenarios. Our goal is for our young adults to experience personal fulfillment in the workplace, community, and in relationships through a better understanding of the nuances of everyday interactions
You might say we are all actors on our own stage, and most of us play our parts rather intuitively. However, life does not come with a script, and those who are on the autism spectrum may have a more difficult time of it. Social expression, understanding the dynamics of interpersonal communication, and relating effectively in a mostly neurotypical world are challenges for many.
What is acting? It is about relating to fellow actors onstage. It is about interpreting a script (whether improvised or written) and reacting to a situation. It is about reading body language and understanding vocal cues, and it is about interpreting and portraying emotions. These are the very skills we all use in our everyday lives as we interact with the world around us. And these are the skills that those on the autism spectrum find so challenging. Our programs give these individuals a chance to explore, rehearse, and develop these essential communication skills in a safe, nonjudgmental, and supportive environment.
Our founding program Shenanigans, started in 2009 by Sandy Bruce, was inspired by her grandson, a teen with Asperger's who loves to be center stage and has the gift of gab. Traditional youth theatre programs were a challenge for him, so Sandy researched ways to nurture his interests and help him develop the skills needed for lifelong success. When she discovered improv theatre, she was excited to note that the improv learning process dovetailed perfectly with the social challenges faced by her grandson and others on the spectrum.
She could find no activities similar to what she was envisioning, so she sought an experienced improv teacher to help develop the first Shenanigans summer camps. She found that person in Jstar, a local improv theater artistic director. The camps resonated with families and participants, and a program was born. Jstar remained a popular Shenanigans improv teacher for several more years.
Now incorporated as Autism Improvised, Inc., our Shenanigans program is one of three (including Code Breakers and Bright Paths) that are all based in applied improv. The organization has grown in both understanding of, and approach to, the needs of a growing population of people affected by autism. We have an expanding team of directors and improv coaches who are all professionals spanning theater, therapies, and education - all with a passion for what we are doing. Our classes and groups can be found throughout the metro Atlanta area. We consider ourselves a lifespan activity with activities for children, teens, and adults. We also offer workshops, occasional special events, and an exciting series of summer camps integrating visual and performing arts through theatre.
Autism Improvised continues to expand its offerings to serve those affected by autism. In 2012, we launched our first transitions program, Code Breakers, a robust, real-life based communication skills program for older teens and young adults moving from K-12 into the competitive work force or college. Bright Paths was begun in 2014 to address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of young women on the spectrum. In both programs, our objective is to develop better social relating, self-advocacy, and social communication skills through real-life scenarios. Our goal is for our young adults to experience personal fulfillment in the workplace, community, and in relationships through a better understanding of the nuances of everyday interactions.