This is World Autism Awareness Week.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
Hearts & Minds Clowndoctors visit schools for learners with complex additional needs across Scotland and some of these young people are autistic.
We asked a few of the Senior Practitioners, who visit these schools regularly to comment on their experience of working with young people who are on the spectrum. The comments show how truly rewarding it is for both them and for the young people.
The Clowndoctors visit young people with autism regularly in various schools for children with complex additional support needs. We work playfully and with empathy to connect with, listen to and empower the young people we work with, to help them develop their communicative potential. Clowning is an amazingly effective medium in this work. Being in the present moment, listening and improvising are at the centre of what we do, and this helps us to build relationships built on genuine exchange, connection and respect. We love it!
Suzie Ferguson, Artistic Director
The Clowndoctors are privileged to be able to play in the beautiful imaginations of young people with autism. Each interaction is unique, built in partnership between ourselves and the individual and created through a strong connection, trust, and engaged and active listening. Using play and the open and warm spirit of the clown we’re able to engage when others can’t and foster genuine and lasting relationships with young people with autism all over Scotland.
Ben Winger, Senior Practitioner
I have a strong memory of working with a teenager who is on the autistic spectrum. He is non verbal and when we were referred to him we were told he was very unsettled and was wandering around the ward. When we approached him I gently mirrored his movements and this seemed to engage him. He approached me, took my hand and let me in a calm, joyful dance around the corridor. This became our “hello” each time we met. Later I heard him mum say to a nurse “The Clowndoctors are wonderful with him because they meet him on his terms, exactly where he is”. I thought Mum’s comment summed up precisely what we were doing and what we do in all our work with children who are autistic. So although that visit is unique, our approach is always about meeting each person exactly where they are.
Diane Thornton, Senior Practitioner
Find out more about our work with schools and our Clowndoctor in the Classroom Programme