SAN DIEGO — Some San Diego autistic teens on Wednesday night hit the stage for some improv comedy as a way of developing teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
Teens on the autism spectrum meet at the National Comedy Theater each week for improv comedy. The no filter space allows them to be themselves and say what they think and feel without any judgment. It is all part of the Unscripted Learning Connections program.
“I can always say I am funny, but it definitely cements it when other people in a crowd laugh about it,” said 20-year-old Tyler Wilson.
Gary Kramer is the executive director for the non-profit Unscripted Learning, which is a six-week learning class disguised as improv.
“Talent is not limited to your emotional stability. You can find talent anywhere,” he said.
Autism is milder than others. Some have other disabilities. National Comedy Theater actor Richie Ploesch coaches one of the classes. By day he is a behavioral analyst using scientific approaches.
“It makes my heart sing because it is such a powerful emotion and powerful emotion for our kids,” said Ploesch.
Nancy Beehn describes Learning Connections as a safe place for her 20-year-old son, Tyler.
“This has literally been life changing. He talks to people. He is not afraid to go out anymore. He engages with other people,” Beehn said.
Seventeen-year-old Natasha Crenshaw was the only girl when the program began two years ago and has since helped other non-social girls.
“I feel like I could be a better friend to most people here. I don’t really socialize outside of here very often, but I am very proud of what I did,” she said.
A recent San Diego State University study found improv through the Connections Program can have a significant impact on emotional and social skills with teens on the autism spectrum.
Visit the Unscripted Learning at National Comedy Theater website to learn more.