No joke, laughter really can be the best medicine. Recent studies point to the therapeutic benefits of comedy for people with autism spectrum disorder, with the act of performing comedy linked to improved self-confidence, stronger social skills and lower anxiety levels. This week, a Dallas-based comedy theater announced a scholarship initiative that will help provide teens on the spectrum in financial need with the healing power of humor.
Now through January 6, Stomping Ground Comedy Theater is accepting scholarship applications from youth ages 14-18 to take part in an autism-focused improv comedy course.
The nonprofit theater in Dallas’s Design District launched its therapeutic comedy program, Improv for Life, in summer 2018. The program is geared toward teens and adults with a variety of mood disorders and developmental needs, and offers a growing roster of classes like Improv for Autism and Improv for Anxiety.
The Huckleberry Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides financial support to families with special needs kids, awarded Stomping Ground with a grant to fund full scholarships for seven students to join the 7-week Improv for Autism course, which will take place on Saturdays, January 12-February 23.
Students learn many of the same exercises and techniques taught in typical improv classes, says program leader, Andrea K. Baum. “But the main goal is teaching specific improv games in a way that reaches the needs of the population to improve and encourage emotional health and wellbeing.”
Baum, who is an improviser and a licensed psychotherapist, pulled from her previous clinical experience to design the “interactive learning improv games” utilized in each course. “For example, our autism class uses improv games that are specific to encouraging boundary setting, communication and social skills and group cohesiveness,” she explains. And just like every Stomping Ground comedy course, Improv for Life players take to the theater’s stage to perform a showcase for each other, plus friends and family, at the end of the program.
Scholarships are awarded based on need, according to Baum, and applicants will find out if they will receive funding within 48 hours. If your family does not meet the requirements for a Huckleberry scholarship, Stomping Ground is open to work with you to create a suitable payment plan. (Standard price of enrollment in Improv for Autism is $320.) Sliding scale fees and installment payment plans are also available.
“Stomping Ground is all about being an inclusive theater for all,” explains Baum. With this new scholarship program, the theater advances in its mission to create an inclusive comedy community in North Texas.
To enroll in Improv for Autism and to apply for the Huckleberry scholarship, email firstname.lastname@example.org.