AUTISM THE SHOW
Howa play helped autistic children bond
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
AUTISM - THE FACTS