The Autism Center of New Jersey Medical School and Montclair State University to host theater workshop for autistic talents
NEWARK — The Autism Center of New Jersey Medical School of UMDNJ has joined forces with Montclair State University’s College of the Arts to host a 12- week theater workshop geared toward integrating theater arts in a program for the Autism Center’s patients. With the assistance of Paul O’Connor, an expert in art therapy and an accomplished theater actor, close to a dozen participants on the autism spectrum will learn a multitude of skills necessary to put on a theater production, such as choreography, set design, acting, costume selection and lighting/sound. As important, the program is geared toward teaching participants in a fun way the skills necessary to build consensus and develop a sense of community.
The program, a collaborative effort between The Autism Center of NJMS and Montclair State University, is made possible in part by a $15,000 grant from Johnson & Johnson and Society for the Arts in Health Care.
The Autism Center’s Director of Outreach and Education B. Madeleine Goldfarb, M.A. explains that the program is geared toward high-functioning adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
"This project will give each individual the opportunity to build a skill in an area that they are interested in," Goldfarb said "The Workshop project is about turning the disability paradigm on its head. It focuses on enhancing strengths rather than eradicating deficits."
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life, and is caused by a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors. It affects a person's ability to communicate and interact socially with others, and is associated with repetitive behaviors and interests. It is called a spectrum disorder because the behaviors by which it is identified appear in different combinations and with varying severity. The terms ‘autism’ and ‘autism spectrum disorders’ (ASD) are often used interchangeably and refer to a broad continuum of brain disorders that includes Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS). To date, there is no known cause or cure.
The pilot program starts on September 15 and will run 12 consecutive Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.