The 630 | Making Connections

May 2018 View more

One of the most common and frustrating struggles for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is communication.

One way to break through the pressure to communicate is to interact in a fun, supportive environment—and what’s more fun than the quick, unscripted back-and-forth of improvisational theater?

That’s why the Improv for Autism partnership with Lisle-based Giant Steps (a specialized, therapeutic day school for children and young adults with ASD) and The Second City Training Center has been a smashing success.

“Communication is a common thing that’s impacted by autism. Sometimes normal social cues are missed or not interpreted properly,” says Giant Steps Instructional Design & Communications Manager Greg Lawrence. “Through doing improv, you build upon cues from someone else and it gives you a chance to practice in a mistake-free environment.”

The first Improv for Autism classes took place from January to March 2018 for 14- to 18-year-olds at Giant Steps, and showed immediate benefits for participants.

“At the beginning of class, some students were not participating, but by the end they were standing up without being prompted, participating and having a good time,” Lawrence says.

The Lisle program was an outgrowth of an Improv for Autism program that The Second City Training Center has been running in Chicago since 2014.

“Something a lot of people don’t realize about improv is that it’s not all about getting a laugh,” says Anthony LeBlanc, artistic director for The Second City. “It’s really about making connections, being in the moment, and interacting with others in a meaningful way, which is why these skills can make a vital difference to kids and adults with autism. Laughter is just a side effect!”

The classes will continue at Giant Steps in Lisle (2500 Cabot Drive) this spring and summer. For more information, visit or call 312.664.3959.