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Arts & Culture

Gift to provide programs for autistic adults

Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation funds opportunities for autistic individuals, students

Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation presented TAPS with a $100,000 endowment to provide educational resources and performing arts programs for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder starting in June.

The adult autism non-profit Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation has bestowed a $100,000 gift to the University to support programs in the Theatre Arts and Performance Studies department that provide educational resources for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The foundation’s Adult Autism Theater and Performing Arts Fund will connect undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those students taking TAPS 1281: “Artists and Scientists as Partners,” with autistic adults through educational initiatives. The program will begin its initial training in February, and there will be a musical camp for adults with autism in June.

“It will really engage students that are not just theater majors,” said Linda Walder, founder of the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. “Imagine if someone is majoring in psychology or social work, there are so many ways theater brings out personality, expression and communication. The things that will be learned, funded by this fund, will really enhance a lot of different disciplines — not just theater,” she added.

The program sponsored by the endowment fund will heavily benefit Brown, said Rachel Balaban, adjunct lecturer in TAPS who teaches ASaP. “(Look) at it from the perspective of diversity,” she said. “You’ve got neuro-diversity, you’ve got the intergenerational (diversity), you’ve got the idea that the arts are integrating with the science(s). It’s natural for Brown … that we’re bringing out this inter-disciplinary approach to issues in our culture,” she added.

Students involved with the programs will study the practices of Elaine Hall, founder of the Miracle Project, a performing arts program for children with autism. “It is not about fixing or changing the person with autism,” Hall said. “It’s about helping the person who is in the presence of someone with autism understand … autism in a way that … comes from a place of compassion and curiosity.”

The methodology from Hall’s book “The Seven Keys to Unlock and Understand Autism” is a three-part process that joins music, drama and the visual arts to bring out the stories of those with autism and gives autistic individuals the opportunity to work with actors to perform original musicals. Through the DJFF-sponsored program, the methodology will be replicated and taught to Brown students and professionals.

The DJFF has launched endowment funds for program initiatives dedicated to different aspects of adult autism at other leading universities. The foundation donated a $100,000 gift to Yale University Medical School in 2014 for the study of adult autism.

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