Shakespeare, Autism, and High School

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The Ohio State University

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My creative distinction project is entitled Shakespeare, Autism, and High School. The project is based on the Hunter Heartbeat Method, a drama therapy method that utilizes Shakespeare’s text in theatre games to help develop social skills in children with autism. In the Hunter Heartbeat Method, actors are trained to be teaching artists, and then work one on one with students with autism using games that help develop recognizing and expressing emotions, using eye contact, and having body awareness. This project has two goals: to discover if high school students can make competent teaching artists as compared to college students, and to see if I could feasibly combine my knowledge from my arts management and theatre majors to recruit, plan, and facilitate a fourteen-week series of workshops using the Hunter Heartbeat Method. Although the Hunter Heartbeat Method has been researched by the Nisonger Center and the Ohio State Department of Theatre since 2011, high school students have not previously had the opportunity to act as teaching artists in a research setting. For my project, I recruited two Ohio State undergrads, two high school students, and four children to participate in the workshops. After recruitment, I trained the high school and college students to be teaching artists for six weeks, followed by running workshops with the children for eight weeks. Observational results indicate that high school students can make competent teaching artists. However, the high school teaching artists required more time spent developing their acting skills as opposed to the college students. The college teaching artists were more confident in their actions and work, but the high school students were more dedicated to the project. In conclusion, although initial recruiting was difficult, the project has resulted in four competent teaching artists regardless of age.



Shakespeare, autism, high school, Hunter Heartbeat Method, teaching artists