When Ptarmigan Music and Theatre Society asked me to facilitate an arts workshop for children with Autism, I was intimidated. It wasn’t that I wasn’t an experienced performing arts facilitator, or that I hadn’t taught hundreds of kids throughout the province, it was that I felt far from qualified to bring anything of value to someone with Autism.
That said, I love a challenge. So, I began my research and what I concluded was that kids with health issues – physical or mental – are still kids. Their abilities may vary, and you may need to be cognizant of their limitations, but at the end of the day, they want to be seen and heard, just like everybody else. The beautiful thing about theatre is that it gives you a vehicle to find your own, unique voice. It allows you to be seen in an environment where there is no such thing as right or wrong. In my opinion, theatre is a powerful tool for healing.
And so, I put my research carefully aside, and decided to teach a workshop only slightly altered from what I would normally teach. I gave my students the benefit of the doubt, and what resulted was inspiring. They rose to the challenge, and they blossomed. I shared these results with another Ptarmigan facilitator who taught visual arts to a group of teens facing mental health issues. Her story was incredibly similar, and she proudly shared a piece of art – the one you see in the image here - that was created during the workshop.
I think our Artistic Director, Patrick Smith, summed it up wonderfully when he heard these success stories. “Sometimes, I think it is beneficial that these children have the opportunity to work with artists, as opposed to healthcare professionals. When they are with us, they aren’t “sick” kids, they are artists themselves.”
I couldn’t agree more.