Autism & Drama: Lessons from Integrated Residencies Celebrating Neurodiversity

In this asynchronous session, StageWrite presents the ADAPTS (Autism & Drama with Artists, Parents, Teachers & Students) program, which uses theatre to connect artists with students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their typically developing peer partners in shared creative experiences with the goal of fostering inclusivity and celebrating neurodiversity.

Presenters explore how integrated drama residencies support the social-emotional development of children with ASD and their typically developing peers. Presenters discuss how integrated drama experiences empower neurotypical students to be advocates for their classmates with ASD and the ways this method of school-wide change can ensure equitable access to the arts for students with disabilities and create a positive impact on the entire community.

Presenter Bios

As co-founder and executive director of StageWrite, Elana Lagerquist has dedicated the past 18 years to empowering youth to become actively engaged in their education and passionate about learning through theatre arts. Prior to StageWrite, Elana was a tenured teacher with San Francisco Unified School District. She holds a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from UC Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in educational theatre from NYU. In 2013, Elana piloted StageWrite’s ADAPTS program to connect students with autism and typically developing peer partners through creative experiences that foster inclusivity and celebrate neurodiversity.

David Neufeld is an inclusion coach and consultant at StageWrite. David works with families, schools, businesses and organizations, specializing in autism and other developmental disabilities. A former professional actor, he holds a doctorate in special education from UC Berkeley and is the creator of Integrated Drama Groups, a play and social group model based on Pamela Wolfberg’s Integrated Play Groups. He also serves as the director of learning support at Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. He lives in Berkeley with his wife and daughters. Learn more about his work.

Lauren Kivowitz, teaching artist at StageWrite, is a performer and inclusion advocate with a master’s degree in applied theatre. As a teaching artist, Lauren facilitates classes for folks of all ages and abilities, using combinations of improv, role-play, music, storytelling and play-building. Lauren is a strong believer in the transformative power of theatre and is the founder of Inclusive Arts, an organization whose mission is to create opportunities to engage in critical dialogue and meaningful action surrounding issues of access, inclusion and ableism in theatre and other creative arts.

Access additional 2020 AEP Virtual Gathering resources here.

Author profile

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits