Howa play helped autis­tic chil­dren bond

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Younes and Dana Da­jani, com­edy direc­tors Mina Lic­cione and Ali Al Sayed, dance in­struc­tor Philip Rachid and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Robert Mill­ner.

And while that first ses­sion was, as Hana says, “chaos”, things soon started to set­tle down.

By week three, an el­e­ment of or­der – much needed by chil­dren with autism – had been es­tab­lished by us­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like a ‘hello’ song to start the day. By week five, the at the New Eng­land Cen­ter For Chil­dren, in Abu Dhabi, was one of the ex­perts who sup­ported the project, at­tend­ing ses­sions in a support ca­pac­ity ev­ery week.

“We need to stress this was not ther­apy,” she tells “The pri­mary aim of the show was to show to the wider pub­lic that th­ese kids with autism can, with the right teach­ing and pro­cesses, take a place in so­ci­ety. “But so many skills were learned in­ci­den­tally that you did see them de­velop. The im­por­tance of team­work or of not be­ing dis­tracted when you have a goal were re­ally es­tab­lished – all while they were en­joy­ing them­selves. There were friend­ships built up, too.

“What that sug­gests is shar­ing this cre­ative ex­pe­ri­ence had real ben­e­fits for the chil­dren in­volved, such as in­creased con­fi­dence, so­cia­bil­ity, imi­ta­tion skills and fo­cus.

“And that shows that if more com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren with autism can be pro­vided, then those kids may be more likely to take on the skills that will help them lead in­de­pen­dent lives. It’s not easy, of course. When I was first asked to

‘They started com­ing in say­ing ‘hi’ to each other, it was a big deal as they don’t nat­u­rally do that’

young­sters had started to take to their roles. By week eight, it was re­alised with some sur­prise, th­ese kids who strug­gled so much so­cially were be­gin­ning to form deep bonds over a common goal.

“When they started com­ing in say­ing ‘hi’ to each other, it was a big deal,” says Hana. “Th­ese aren’t kids that will nat­u­rally do that.

“Even the word ‘autism’ comes from ‘au­ton­omy’, so to have them work­ing as a team was mas­sive.”

Shar­ifa Ya­teem, an ap­plied be­hav­iour anal­y­sis ther­a­pist based


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