This week in our round-up of autism in popular and mainstream culture, we take a look an anti-bullying musical aimed at youth with autism, a mother-and-son team working to make hospital visits less stressful, and a local ball hockey league that is serving as outreach to a small community’s young population with autism.
First up, it’s an all-too common experience for children and teens with autism to be bullied by their peers. It’s easy for the bullied to feel powerless and voiceless, but a new musical being held in Beverly Hills is giving a voice to those who often do not have one. The musical is called “The Intimidation Game,” and it is a collaboration between the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Miracle Project, bringing together young people with autism and other disabilities with their non-disabled contemporaries
It tells the tale of a bullied teen with autism being harassed at school—source material that almost all of the cast shares. “I’m trying to get people to know me…I’m a very talented young kid with autism,” said Domonique Brown, a cast member. As such, according to Elaine Hall of the Miracle Project, “We are about using theater and film to change stereotypes about disability.” Those troupe members who played the roles of the bullies said the musical opened their eyes to a world that they had only glimpsed in passing.
Moving to Lansing, Michigan, we encounter 16-year-old Sebastian Youngs who, along with his mother Kellye, are trying to make hospital visits—which often serve as triggers for many children with autism—more palatable for individuals with autism. The 16-year-old high school student from Charlotte was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the fourth grade. As a teenager, he visited Sparrow Hospital seeking help with a month-long migraine. Staff members did their best to accommodate him, including blanketing windows and trying to block as much noise as possible.
Considering how stressful of a time it was for Sebastian, he has since decided to pay it forward and make the experience more palatable for other individuals like himself, with the help of his mother who is a registered nurse at Sparrow’s. Their work ultimately led to the development of a wheeled cart that carries more than a dozen tools to help patients with autism feel more comfortable during their stays. “These supplies can bring a world of improvement for autistic kids like me,” Sebastian said.
Finally, from the stage and hospital to the rink, eight years ago Cory Clapperton started the Thornton Ball Hockey league—a form of hockey played on a dry surface and with a ball instead of a puck—he also learned that his young nephew Garrett was diagnosed with autism. Now, eight years on, he and his nephew have started the first league for children living with an autism diagnosis.
“I played ball hockey and ice hockey all my life. We’d play on the street. We’d come in from school, throw down our bags and go play street hockey until the street lights came on,” said Clapperton, who grew up in Newmarket.
He wants his nephew who’s in the fourth grade to experience the same joys, as well as learn a game and develop social skills and friendships. “I want him to lead a life that’s as normal as possible and want him to experience different things that bring joy. It’s important he gets exercise and is healthy. That’s why we started this league. I’d really like Garret to try the sport.”