Appalachian’s Theatre and Therapy Project

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Monday, January 9, 2017 - 8:17pm

An interprofessional, exploratory pilot study by faculty members in the departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Theatre and Dance shows promise in improving the speech, language and social skills of adolescents and young adults with autism and intellectual disabilities. It also helped boost their self-confidence.

Appalachian State University’s Dr. Angela Losardo and Dr. Derek Davidson recently spent 20 weeks examining the efficacy of theatre as a therapeutic intervention for 15- to 25-year-olds with moderate to severe communication impairments, thanks to a grant from the Appalachian’s University Research Council (URC) and a research stipend from the Beaver College of Health Sciences.

Their study, titled the Theatre and Therapy Project, paired Appalachian students from each discipline with one of six participants. Everyone involved met weekly for two hours to work on specific communication goals by acting short scenes from their favorite movies. The goals were set in consultation with the participants and their families, and video recordings of several sessions helped document progress.

The activity-based intervention culminated in a drama presentation on campus in November titled “Stages of Success: The Power of Performance” starring six research participants, with casting and language support from Appalachian students.

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