Camp "Yes And..."

Posted by Nikki Rankin on 12/9/2016 7:30:00 AM

Camp Yes Logo Do you love going to improv clubs or watching improv on TV?  Do you love it when actors make-up their own lines in a movie or play?  Do you love to laugh?  Did you know that students with autism spectrum disorder can be taught improv as a way to develop social communication skills?  

Camp “Yes, And…” was created for pre-teens and teens in middle school and high school who are on the autism spectrum or a similar disability to facilitate and support social communication skill building.  The camp is free for students and also provides a free professional learning opportunity for teachers, special educators, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, behavioral specialists, paraprofessionals, supervisors, and just about any other professional working with students K-12 in public, private, university, and community-based settings.  The camp is sponsored by the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning and the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University.  This past summer week-long camps were held in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

The camp was created and led by Dr. Jim Ansaldo and Lacy Alana, LCSW.  Jim is a Research Scholar at the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana University Bloomington.  He has 15 years experience facilitating school change and creating  professional development for teachers.  He also has over 25 years experience teaching and performing in improv comedy.  Lacy is the Special Needs Program Director at the Hideout Theatre in Austin, Texas where she is a an improv performer and instructor.  She has focused on working with youth on the autism spectrum by providing improv classes in connection with her therapy services.

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Camp “Yes, And…” the last two summers, and I had a memorable learning experience both summers.  Last summer, camp was five weekdays Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm with an hour-long showcase for family and friends on Friday afternoon.  I attended the Indianapolis camp which was held at IUPUI in the University Library.  We had about 12 students and about 8 teachers and facilitators.  Each day of camp began with a ½ day teacher training in the morning, and the students arrived at 1:00 pm after our hour lunch break.  On the first day of camp, teachers were given a binder of over 160 pages that included training objectives, definitions of improv, possible student challenges and improv interventions, camp goals, curriculum including 12 modules with lots of games, exercises and activities, positive behavior supports, and resources.  The trainings for the teachers each morning were a time for us to learn the improv activities and games that would be taught to the students that afternoon.  At the end of the camp, each participant was given a certificate and earned a camp patch.  Teachers were also given a certificate showing 40 hours of professional development.

Camp Yes Kids Even if you did not have improv experience, Jim and Lacy met you at whatever level of improv experience you had and led you through the learning experience.  Because I had no improv experience when I began, I was hesitant to jump right into the activities.  The facilitators and other teachers, however, made me feel comfortable and part of the “cast.” Then I was able to enjoy my experience and share the joy with the students.  Each summer we had a different group of students with different levels of abilities and willingness to participate.   It was amazing the transformation we saw as our students started coming out of their shells to communicate what they had learned through the improv games and activities.  Several times I had pains in my stomach muscles from laughing too hard.  I cannot wait to see what my third summer of Camp “Yes And…” may bring!

Also, Jim Ansaldo has started 2-hour classes on Saturdays once a month in Bloomington or Indianapolis throughout the school year for teachers and students who have attended Camp “Yes And…” as a way to keep us current on the improv activities and games.  I have attended one class so far, and I plan to go to more.

Melissa Wilkinson, SLP