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Shakespeare Takes Center Stage In Autism Therapy

William Shakespeare has inspired millions of people over hundreds of years, and now researchers hope to use his work in a whole new way - as a novel therapy for children with autism.

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) –  William Shakespeare has inspired millions of people over hundreds of years, and now researchers hope to use his work in a whole new way - as a novel therapy for children with autism.

Doctors say many children with autism have trouble communicating and sharing emotions appropriately, but teaching them the works of Shakespeare appears to help.

“It’s quite amazing to see how a Shakespearean play can be transformed into, really, a therapeutic intervention,”  said Dr. Marc J. Tassé, director of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Nisonger Center and principal investigator of this unique intervention.

The program requires “a lot of observation, role playing and turn-taking,” said Tassé, “which are core elements of any social skill teaching, and something many of these children struggle with,” he said.

It’s an idea that actually started years ago in Great Britain.  Kelly Hunter, an actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, developed a program for children with autism called the “Hunter Heartbeat Method.”  Her idea was to use the exaggerated voices and facial expressions of Shakespearean plays to help teach children who have trouble communicating.

Now, she’s teaming up with researchers at Ohio State’s Nisonger Center to see if there is some science behind her art.

For 42 weeks, researchers will teach elements of Shakespeare to 20 students to see if there is some proof that it helps them become more engaged and better communicators.

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