Regina improv class teaches life skills to teens with autism – Saskatchewan
When people think of improv, they often think of a group of people making up scenarios and being funny on stage.
Cameron Chomyn says it’s much more than that.
Chomyn grew up teaching improv. One of his teammates was on the autism spectrum.
“It came to the point where him and his mom sat down and they realized how much improv had helped him growing up and just learning the basic social skills of communicating — and, when he’s angry, how to manage that,” Chomyn said.
That teammate pitched an idea to the Globe Theatre to have a place just for teenagers on the autism spectrum to learn the social skills he had learned in improv.
He wrote a grant, partnered with the Autism Resource Centre and then approached Chomyn to help facilitate the program. It’s called Improv for Autism.
‘We see progress very slowly, but when you do it’s tears in your eyes instantly.’ – Cameron Chomyn
The road hasn’t always been smooth —Chomyn said it can be hard to secure funding — but he says it’s worth it.
In time, Chomyn noticed the program being about more than just skills.
“It became less about a class, and more about just two hours out of the week where we could come together and enjoy each other and share the positivity of the room.”
In their first semester, there were around 10 people. Now, they have around 20.
Progress is heartwarming
Chomyn says the progress of the students is heartwarming to see.
“We see progress very slowly, but when you do it’s tears in your eyes instantly,” he said.
“We have our challenges for sure and sometimes it’s hard — not only to have teens on the spectrum who struggle with communication and social skills, but also they’re teens who are going through changes of their own. So some nights are a struggle, but every now and then we see a spark of magic in our classroom that reinforces why we continue to do this.”
Plans for the future
Chomyn hopes the program will continue to grow.
“We’re working right now on a summer camp for teens, some place where they can come for the whole summer and learn these social skills and do some more improv and learn about responsibilities as they grow older,” he said.
The group has also made contact with a woman in the United States who has a Master’s degree in social work, is an improviser and is running a camp similar to what Chomyn is hoping they’ll do.
“We’ve been in constant contact, just swapping stories and swapping activities and communicating so we’re able to both better our classes,” Chomyn said.
The Accidental Entrepreneur
Chomyn will be speaking Friday night at an event called The Accidental Entrepreneur: Sharing Stories About Unexpected Career Paths.
“There’s kind of this thought about improv as this performance art, but there’s a lot of us who feel it’s something more. It’s more than just going on stage and being funny,” he said.
“Improv can be used to help so many ranges of the workplace, whether it is in public speaking or communication or teamwork. I’m hoping that people start to take a chance on learning improv.”
The event, to be held at Brewed Awakening on Dewdney Avenue, is sold out.