Lee R. Chasen’s book Social Skills, Emotional Growth and Drama Therapy is the resource for the clinically proven approach to enhance social and emotional growth for children on the autism spectrum.
Chasen gives a thorough introduction to pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) and how positive intervention like drama therapy can be the greatest treatment.
Drama therapy works by firing mirror neurons; through reenactment of dramatic circumstances, children are able to delve deeper into a “level of self-perception and social understanding regarding those circumstances.” Theatre visionaries such as Aristotle and Shakespeare knew of theatre’s ability to mirror real-life situations, long before neuroscience began. Drama is an art form but also inspires personal and social action.
Drama therapy itself emerged in the 1970s and includes role-playing, directing, scripting, improvisation, costume, set design, and other forms of creative expression. Drama therapy gives children with autism a chance for self-expression, positive attention from peer groups, and cognitive and emotional development.
Chasen describes drama therapy and exactly how it benefits children with autism by using his own experiences and facts from research literature. The book even describes treatment interventions and provides enough detail that therapists can use the book as a resource for starting their own drama therapy programs.
Told in a thoroughly engaging manner (as you might expect from a dramatist), readers will love Chasen’s story of turning a 2000-square-foot basement into a therapeutic center for individuals with autism. Through sharing memories that start from hilarious: “After one especially rainy season flooded our space, my assistant Doreen and I laughed until we cried from fantasies of vengeful, make-up smeared zombie models emerging from the buckling floorboards, a la Poltergeist, as we saved the puppets from the rising waters, hoisting them to higher ground.” And moves to heartfelt and sincere joy: “As I look back at what I have written about these children, I am struck by how they might seem, as their stories begin, almost inhuman, with their disconnected and distorted affects. Toward the end of each narrative, though, I am happy to see how the person emerges from their dramatic encounters as a sympathetic character, a fully functioning soul struggling to make sense of a chaotic and caustic world with equipment that operates on a different frequency.”
Social Skills, Emotional Growth and Drama Therapy proves to be an engaging and fun resource not just for drama therapists but also for teachers, arts therapists, psychologists, and other professionals who work with children on the spectrum.