The Applied Drama Lab (ADL) aims to create systematic pathways in which autistics are guided to break through the limitations of autism using Expressive Arts and Applied Drama modalities. This is only for autistic people who are ready to address life issues such as dissatisfaction in their intimate relationships.
It will be a community collaboration between autistic, neurodivergent and non-autistic practitioners to create new possibilities for autistics. Participants can explore the beliefs, emotions, meaning, experiences, choices of being human through improvisational cosplay (e.g. LARPing), role-playing and other expressive arts.
Perhaps one day this can evolve into a multi-year in-person Enrichment/Adventure Club for autistic adults worldwide.
Why bother with expressive arts?
There has been an overemphasis on behavioural management and employment training for autistics which impose artificial ways of behaving onto autistics, but no interest in finding ways for autistics to master the cognitive and emotional insights that will allow them to naturally process and respond appropriately to the people and world around them.
Without true insights into how our world works, autistics will remain disconnected and robotic. They will not be able to develop the adaptability, resilience and wisdom to support themselves after their caregivers are no longer around. Artificial Intelligence is rapidly advancing to the point that autistics who fail to develop their true potential will become obsolete.
The expressive arts will provide a more concrete alternative to “talk therapy” for autistics to work through difficult moments and challenges in their personal lives.
Why are typical drama training programmes inadequate?
Contrary to the typical viewpoint that autism is a lifelong developmental disorder, Eric believes that the autistic developmental cycle is fundamentally different from that of non-autistic people. Unfortunately most people are unwilling to acknowledge this perspective or to make a serious effort to conduct research into this area.
Hence, it is necessary to create an organisation that will conduct applied research into how to attain different milestones that can unlock advanced abilities thought impossible to attain by autistics, such as people management and strategic planning, via applied learning in the real world instead of theories and frameworks.
The drama training programmes for non-autistic people presuppose basic competencies in emotional, cognitive and situational awareness based on the non-autistic developmental cycle. It is necessary to develop drama work centred on the autistic consciousness and personal development so that concepts relating to the human experience can be properly understood and used by autistics.
What is the course duration or arrangements?
It is not possible to use the typical course planning process for this research. While it is possible to train autistics to perform certain definable skills and measure their progress, it is not possible to standardise the experience of insight, which is beyond intellectual understanding.
A person may take an hour while another may take 20 years to gain insight into the same concept. How each insight might be facilitated is still unclear, but we might be able to find commonalities by studying the experiences of a large number of autistics who have already attained that insight. The Hidden Autistics are expected to provide the bulk of contributions for this yet-to-exist research.
The course will have to be designed to accommodate autistics who are working full-time, as it is unclear how long it will take before breakthroughs occur. More experienced autistics will also be tasked to support inexperienced new coursemates as part of their personal development.
Is this for developing artistic and acting talent?
No, this is not an artist development programme. We are not concerned about how well trainees perform on stage or how well they express themselves with art. This is a programme to create personal breakthroughs for autistics so that they can gain the wisdom and emotional maturity that most non-autistic people develop naturally. Any artistic and acting talent developed as a result are unintended bonuses.
Can the general public volunteer?
Just like the other solutions in the Masterplan, this will be a community-led and community-owned initiative. People with applied drama, facilitation, therapy, counselling or coaching experience will be especially valuable volunteers. It can be an exciting adventure for artists and therapists to explore a new frontier while potentially making a strategic difference in the lives of many autistic people.
Will trainees perform for audiences?
Trainees may elect to organise their shows, do cosplay photography, or experiment with new concepts such as the Forum Theater while the facilities are not in use.
This facility will be developed into a tourist attraction to generate additional revenue for its upkeep. This includes co-participating in the training/performance, having overnight stays and having a theme park experience.