Last Friday our co-founder Saskia Maas spoke at the Nationaal Autisme Congres about InterActing. Head trainer Jake Lefebvre and class assistant Tristan Bannerman came along to facilitate two improvisation based exercises with the audience, so they could experience what the InterActing students learn every week. The session was wrapped up by three InterActing students Aidan, Tennessee and Daniel who performed a short improvisation show to cheers and applause.
The NAC is an academic conference for autism related professionals from Psychiaters to Psychologists, Neurologists but also Teachers, School Doctors and Therapists.
Saskia spoke about how she started InterActing five years ago together with co-founder Pim Donkersloot from Child Center. Saskia strongly believes that flexibility is a muscle that you can train. She also believes that if you treat a child the way he is he will stay that way. If you treat a child the way you would like it to become you will bring him on the path to that destination.
That is exactly what she intends to achieve with InterActing. We help young people with autism through improvisation skills to become more socially resilient and self-confident. We teach them how to interact spontaneously with each other in a playful way. and build on each other’s ideas. And most importantly they have fun and have a place to make friends.
This approach is very much supported by research done in the USA by the NAC’s special guest Professor Matthew Lerner from Stony Brook University in New York, who gave a keynote on Rethinking Social Outcomes Across the Spectrum and the Life Course.
He also subscribes to the fact that the ability to connect with peers and develop friendships is among the most crucial and complex developments in youth. While this capacity develops easily for most children, young people on the spectrum experience persistent social challenges. His research focuses on understanding mechanisms of and developing interventions for social and emotional functioning (in particular peer relations) among children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. He has used improvisation as well as a tool for the development of social skills and understanding.
Saskia and Matthew spoke at the conference about collaborating together on future programs and research together with Professor Sander Begeer from VU University and Dr. Kirstin Greaves-Lord from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.