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Notre Dame Hosts Play about Autism

Notre Dame College will host a one-act play about the challenges people with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome might face growing up. Produced by students at Hiram College, “It’s Okay” will take place in the Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 11.

The play follows the life of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, from elementary school through adulthood. It demonstrates the challenges a person with Asperger’s may face growing up in what can be a challenging world for a neurotypical person but an unequivocal anxiety-producing world for someone with Asperger’s.

The project came about after Hiram College Professor of Chemistry Colleen Fried had heard at a conference about a project involving medical and theatre students, creating a performance piece based on their thoughts and ideas about cadavers. She explained the project to Brittany Jackson, assistant director of Hiram’s Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities. Jackson, who has a background in theatre and communication, had already tossed around an idea that involved focusing on a specific disease or disorder in a performance piece. So the course “An Exploration of Disease or Disorder by Performance” was born. 

Hiram students Cara Battaglia, Amy Morton and Allison Fox, engaged the topic of autism through the exploration of literature, scientific papers, discussions with medical providers and families who care for people with autism, and personal interaction with people who have autism. Their research provided them with a comprehensive overview of the disorder and the experiences of people who live with it on a daily basis.

After the interview process, the students worked with Jackson to create a performance piece that captures the issues surrounding the disorder and engages the audiences with the topic. They are performing the play and are hosting discussion sessions to provide additional information about the disorder at 14 different locations all over Ohio.

“Community outreach is an extremely important aspect of this project because it is the community that needs to be informed about autism,” Jackson said. “We need to be told or reminded that just because someone is nonverbal, that does not mean they cannot communicate. Our way is not the only way.”

At Notre Dame College, the education and theatre departments as well as the Academic Support Center are sponsoring the performance. The ASC provides quality educational opportunities and support services to students with documented learning disabilities such as Asperger’s and autism.

The play is free and open to the public. It will run for about one hour. Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Gretchen Walsh, director of the Academic Support Center, at 216.373.5185 or gwalsh@ndc.edu.