Using theater as therapy
LOS ANGELES (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - Every day 33 babies are born in the United States with permanent hearing loss. If not identified early, it’s almost impossible for many of them to acquire the fundamental language, social and cognitive skills to succeed in school and in society. One woman is helping thousands of children with hearing loss thrive by using the theater as therapy.
It’s the performance of a lifetime and proof these children with hearing loss can do anything!
“My name is Teddy. I’m nine years old.” Teddy is a member of No Limits Theater, and his mother explains that “He was born with hearing loss.”
Teddy, along with many of his fellow actors, is learning to speak words they’ve never said before, building their vocabulary and their confidence on stage.
“I can get the best speech sounds from a child in any costume. So, if the child’s working on their “T” sound, I put them in a turtle outfit. It’s like, what costume are you wearing? They’re like, ‘erdle’ like, nope, turtle. They’re like, oh, turtle. I’m like good speech, you know,” explains Michelle Christie who started No Limits Theater Group 25 years ago to help kids stuck in a silent world.
Christie further shares “I’m a teacher of the deaf. So, I want the kids to project. So, it’s really important for them in their lives not to be too scared to talk. Doing it at the theater is a very safe place to do it. They have other friends who are in similar situations.”
Christie found many low-income students couldn’t afford private therapy. So, she expanded her services with three education centers in California and Las Vegas, offering free support, therapy, and enrichment programs to hundreds of children and their families each year.
“We opened up the afterschool program because the school district was only given 15 minutes of speech therapy a week with a group of kids, which means nobody’s picking up a language.” Comedian Kathy Buckley explains.
Buckley is the official No Limits spokesperson and knows exactly what these kids are against.
“I did not get an education growing up. Most deaf children grow up, and don’t graduate from high school, with a third or fourth-grade reading level. I’m one of them. I don’t want these kids to grow up feeling less than. I want these kids to know. It’s okay to have a hearing loss. What’s not okay is not being able to communicate. I want them to have a voice.” Buckley shares.
David Hawkins was diagnosed with hearing loss at nine months old. He was in No Limits very first production in 1996.
“For the audience clapping, I couldn’t hear the people as much as I felt them. When I got my cochlear implant a couple of years ago, I actually heard the audience clapping and shouting me out. And I was like, oh, really, a game-changer. No Limits hanged my life.” Hawkins is now a director at No Limits Theater.
“We can build their confidence in their language skills. They can do anything.” Christie says of the program’s impact.
No Limits, to date, is the only organization serving children who have hearing loss between the ages of three and 18, at no cost to lower-income families. No Limits has also started a grassroots effort to change public policy by educating people about the struggles and triumphs of people with hearing loss through a national production and book titled Silent: NO MORE. It’s sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall.
To find out more about Silent: NO MORE and the No Limits Theater, you can go to their website here.
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