Joanne Skapinker is an inclusive theatre practitioner who uses drama and theatre to create inclusive communities of young people. One aspect of her work is centres on how theatre can be used to help children and adolescents with autism.
Shakespeare Schools Festival, the UK's largest youth drama festival enables 1,000 schools each year to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres. The festival works with many special educational needs (SEN) schools, and one branch is aimed at delivering training to teachers of students with SEN - often with ASD – and exploring how Shakespeare can help them to work with their students on communication, interaction and understanding motives and consequences.
At the Little Angel Theatre in North London, London-based teenagers with ASD are part of a group called Spectrum Youth Theatre, created by the theatre's Education Manager Slavka Jovanović. Joanne became a director of the project after discovering how shadow puppetry could be used to communicate with young people who struggle with verbal communication and how this could be developed for young people with ASD.
Dormez-vous? is a collaboration between Joanne, creative producers Crying Out Loud, and French contemporary theatre company L'insomnante. This project offers creative residencies in schools in the UK and France for young people with ASD. The theme of sleeplessness, and the often fraught relationship with sleep experienced by those with an ASD are explored by creating a unique sensory environment (featuring 100 pillows!) through games, movement, and drawing. Each residency leads to a performance by the company for the young people, based on the work which they have created together. This has helped young people to express their feelings and thoughts through a multi-sensory guided experience.