It’s been a while since Superman started comedy classes.
He doesn’t drive, so I sit in on a bunch of them. I try to kind of sit off to the side and not interrupt, and read a book…a cookbook, cause they’re a perfect match to my attention span.
It’s been fun, trying not to listen, like getting a free show every week. Watching his class learn to work together has been fun, and seeing them progress with their funny has been good, too. I’m probably supposed to mention how great Ty, the instructor, was, here, in making it all come together.
That is Ty, on the right.
Something was happening in that picture. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but something was coming together in his head and I remember thinking “He’s really getting it.” He was also making eye contact and engaging conversation, which is a big deal for people with Autism.
As of today, the last day of July 2015, he has been through 3 eight-week rounds of classes.
In that time, he did an audition, took in an all day Saturday cram session, and just this week, performed on stage with his classmates. I really don’t think he has an ounce of stage fright. In fact, the stage show provided a very sensory rich environment, lights, crowd, noise, loud music, after show time, everyone is expected to hang around and mingle, and he didn’t bat an eye. He also didn’t wear his earmuffs. Making sure he was there to do his part was more important to him than acknowledging his sensory issues. Beyond huge. After all, the show must go on.
This is a pic of David. He is a founder of PFI. He doesn’t teach the lower level classes, so the newer students don’t see him often. If I remember right, I think Ty said he teaches the grad level classes, which come at different times later.
I’m not sure what I will do with my time when SM starts those. I think, eventually, he will drive himself around, but it may still be a few years, and that’s OK! Until then, I will keep doing what I need to do to help him realize his dreams. Some of our young people with Autism end up not driving at all, and I am not going to pressure him if he’s not ready. As far as I’m concerned, he is doing GREAT! He’s really come a long way from that non-verbal four year old who was trapped inside of himself.
At the end of level 3, the students do a show together. They get up on stage at the Rare Martini and do skits in front of a crowd and it’s like what they have been doing all along in class only better.
All that aside, now I’m going to go into a few things from the perspective of one who has a loved one with Autism. Improv theater is a very social thing, which seems at odds with Autism, considering that it is a communication disorder and many Auties (Superman included) struggle with reading others’ facial expressions, body languages, verbal inflections, etc., everything that we typical people learn as children without being taught. They also often struggle with social situations and understanding how to participate appropriately in conversations. Pair that up with major sensory dysfunction, and you have someone who constantly struggles in ways that we can only imagine.
(They are also, often, unfailingly honest. If you want a friend who skips the BS and tells you the truth, pick an Autie but make sure you aren’t easily offended or quick to get your feelings hurt.)
Back to the social aspect. For these shows, the actors all work as a team. They do skits based off whatever gets thrown at them, So, for the last year, I’ve been observing Superman in that environment. I’ve noticed several things.
His self-confidence is up. He’s doing more things for himself that require social interaction like handling his pharmacy things, calling his doctors, making his own purchases, etc.
He’s let go of a few things that we have previously said aren’t very funny. One that comes to mind is his “falsetto” voice when he pretends to be me. I’m not going to say that he doesn’t still do certain things anyway, but they covered the falsetto voice in class one night, and he listened. He soaks that info up like a sponge.
He is starting to pay attention to people in public. For example, a couple of his PEERS support people came to the class performance and he noticed that one of them had on a pretty, red dress.
He is not necessarily engaging strangers, but he’s no longer spazzing when they stand too close, try to engage him, try to speak to us, etc
He is accepting changes more smoothly. I’m not saying that when the microwave handle broke off in his hand, that he didn’t freak out, but he came back and said “There is a different way to open the microwave.”
So, all things considered, it’s almost like he’s getting therapy every week, but it’s not boring therapy that might be too easy for him. It fits him well, and I’m looking forward to watching him progress.
And by the way? Ty really was awesome at making it all come together.