This weekend, I worked at The Northeast ARC (formerly the North Shore ARC). I got involved with them last summer, as I was accepted into their Spotlight program. Spotlight uses theater games and dramatic play to strengthen social pragmatics.
I was honored to be a part of this program. Considering my background in psychology is still green, I was surprised that I was accepted. They seemed to think that with my hands on (7 years!) experience, working with a few autistic children in my afterschool program and my vast theater experience I had the chops. Parents seemed VERY delighted when I told them I had an aspie.
"OH MY GOD! You GET it!" they would gush. "You understand what's going on." After feeling very undereducated, this gave me the confidence that I needed.
One of the many fantastic facets of my job is I get to play theater games with people. Yes, rough life, I know. On Saturday's group, we played the game "World's Worst." You pick a category of the "World's Worst" and each person gets a turn to come up with their "worst."
The kids in this group are between 14-17 years old. About 6 boys and one girl. One boy, M, is about 18. He's verbal, but mumbles his words. He tends to be shy and does not participate until he's ready. But when he is, holy cow, look out.
M took his time to get into "character", which was an amalgam of Arnold Schwartzenegger, The Terminator, Chuck Norris, Vince the "Shamwow" guy and Billy Mays. He repeats certain phrases and mannerisms. His favorite? "Come with me if you want to live!" We dubbed him, "The Governator". He would deftly and seemlessly weave his way into many people's scenes without stealing focus. This is his way of participating. He jumped into my theme park, "The Shining Lotus, where you can ride all the rides you want for free, you just have to get to Nirvana first." He yelled, "Chucka Norrrrissssss!" and tried to snap me out of my meditative bliss. I promptly cracked up.
I love the time I spend there. It has given me purpose, focus and direction. I went to school to be an actor. I always dreamed that I would make my living from performing. And I do. But not in the method (HA! I said method!) I envisioned for myself a lifetime ago. I didn't picture I would ever work with children. Now, it's second nature to me. And working with kids on the spectrum, as well as kids with ADD, ADHD, and Bipolar disorder? Yes, I took that on. I was ready. I heard the call to service.
And the call of Chuck Norris, Billy Mays, Naruto, Transformers, ShamWow, and The Terminator and any other geeky, strange and wonderful thing that can come from kids with autism. That it is magical, powerful and creative. And I am proud and lucky to be a part of that magic.