Therapy and a Livelihood for Some on the Spectrum

Is acting your thing? Many diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome have taken to the stage or screen as their profession or hobby. Take Dan Aykroyd and Darryl Hannah or even Sir Anthony Hopkins who all have disclosed the Asperger diagnosis.

Therapists have often used acting out parts in a play for effective social skills building exercises. An example is given by author Cindy Schneider who is a pioneer in the field of drama therapy for people with autism. In her book, Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger Syndrome, she states the following traits gained by acting:

  1. self-confidence not only in performing but in interactions
  2. improved self-esteem; pride in their accomplishments
  3. improved recognition of emotions in others
  4. improved identification and labeling of own emotions
  5. new leisure time activity in a group where they can be successful
  6. new awareness of volume levels and beginning modulation of level
  7. new skills for functioning as part of a group
  8. new skills for following directions
  9. improved ability to interact with peers
  10. increased self-confidence through success

It’s not easy to find a drama therapist specializing in autism since the field is so new. However, Nichelle Rodriguez the owner of Cast and Crew Universe, has come up with a camp designed for therapy and success.
Nichelle says, “One of our Aspie actors just earned a co-star role on a Netflix series and the mother will be a main speaker this summer.”

Nicole’s special offer to Aspergers101 readers:
“Your readers just need to mention Aspergers 101 for one complimentary Parent Conference pass.”!

Here is more:




I own a summer camp that’s not your traditional “cabins and kayaking” sort of thing. My boarding program is categorized as a fantasy camp – also called a specialty camp. We bring passionate young actors to Los Angeles from every corner of the globe to help them learn about and/or LAUNCH a Hollywood film acting career. The teens and young adults who attend Young Actors come to us to explore their dream, experience working on film/sitcom sets and find a sense of community. 

One morning, about three years ago, I received a call from a mother that changed our camp forever. 

She began talking frantically, hoping that the person she was speaking to would understand her goal – to find a place for her daughter. She desperately explained, “my daughter has a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome and Aspie kids sometimes have obsessions. My daughter is completely obsessed with becoming a star, acting and Hollywood. She just wants a chance to audition for a Disney sitcom. If you accept her, I can promise you will not have a problem. She’s a sweet kid. She opens up on stage, but socially she is a very withdrawn.” 

My first thought was, “this woman just described every ‘normal’ child at my acting camp.” 

In fact, there was nothing strange or extraordinary. Her daughter is our mission; allowing young passionate dreamers to live the life they wish for. I explained to her that she would be understood at our program for that reason, as well as the fact that I also have a son who is a high-functioning Asperger teen. She was beside herself with happiness to know that the camp owner had an indepth understanding of her daughter, in more ways than most could. 

It was the perfect fit, and our camp has been her daughter’s summer home for the past three years. Last month she earned a co-staring role on the Netflix series ‘Atypical’.

Her daughter was the first child that came to us with the label of having a form of autism, but it made me think that I may have had several children on the autistic spectrum who just happened to be in their element and simply fit in. Our program staff now includes a specialist who is always on site so we can welcome high-functioning Asperger teens and young adults, aged 12 to 22. 

Who doesn’t want to be immersed in what they love? The lesson here is that our Asperger kids may have the chance to feel quite ‘normal’, literally in their element, if placed in the right specialty program. Animation, film-making, cooking, drawing, music… there is an immersion program for every interest! 

Don’t forget: You need to mention Aspergers 101 for one complimentary Parent Conference pass! Contact info below:  

Young Actors Camp is a residential program in the Los Angeles area. Visit for more information, or email Nichelle directly on or call/text her on 909-268-0615. Summer 2019 registration deadline ends on May 10th (or until spaces fill. Session one is now closed).

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1 Comment

  1. My son is 21 and has dreamed of being an actor since a young child. He was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 4. We would love information please.

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