CSU, Chico News

Freedom in Elements: Unique Program Offers Art Exploration for Teens and Adults with Autism and In-Service for Teachers

Date: 07-25-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Rebecca Lytle
Department of Kinesiology

The Adapted Physical Activity Program (APA) at California State University, Chico is hosting its first Freedom in Elements Program for individuals on the autism spectrum Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5–7. The program will focus on increasing social skills and developing interpersonal relationships through movement, theatre, art, drama and music. The camp is a result of collaboration between APA and Velvi, a nonprofit organization based in Madurai, India.

In addition to the camp, Freedom in Elements is also offering a one-day in-service training for special educators, trainers and professionals engaged with individuals with autism on Thursday, Aug. 4.

The Velvi Art for Autism Festival, which has been presented annually in India since 2009, provided the inspiration for the Chico program. Velvi is the brainchild of Dr. Parasuram Ramamoorthi, who brought together families and professionals throughout India for a three-day festival of drama, art and movement. The Freedom in Elements Program in Chico will expand this concept of social growth and connectedness through the arts, bringing together facilitators throughout California and India.

“We are anticipating that this program will redefine autism for the teens who participate and the teachers who take the in-service,” said Rebecca Lytle, head of APA at CSU, Chico. “It will also be a very enjoyable event for participants and facilitators.”

The Freedom in Elements Program is for teens age 14 and older and adults. Attendees will have the chance to participate in short plays, music sessions, expressive art, photography, videography, high- and low-ropes courses and rock-wall climbing. Participants will take a trip to the farmers market and dine out at a local restaurant. On the last day of the camp, there will be a showcase of performances and art from all the participants. Families are encouraged to join in this event.

Cost to each camper and companion adult is $250. Clients of the Far Northern Regional Center may have the cost of the program, including meals and lodging, covered. For registration and more information, please contact Nicole Bernard, an intern from the APA program, at nbernard20@gmail.com or 916-276-3066

One-Day In-Service for Professionals

Freedom in Elements is also organizing a one-day in-service for special educators, trainers and other professionals engaged with autism. Four experts, two from India, will offer workshops in theatre, music, movement, kinesiology and art and will discuss how to make use of the training in schools and care centers.

“The professionals will see how they can change the lives of children and adults in the autism spectrum,” said Lytle. “It is so exciting to have the very experienced guests from India as facilitators for the training.”

The facilitators include Ramamoorthi, Lytle, Shaloo Sharma and Karen Howard.

Ramamoorthi has an extensive background in theatre and has been working in the field of arts for autism since 2003. He has conducted international workshops on drama for autism and is considered a pioneer in the field of applied drama.

Shaloo Sharma is an experienced education and design professional with 20 years of experience. She heads an organization in India that conducts intervention, schooling, and career training for persons with varied abilities. She has extensive experience using creative art therapy with individuals with autism.

Lytle is an APA specialist who has been teaching individuals with disabilities for more than 25 years. She is the founder of the Chico State Autism Clinic and has lectured and presented trainings internationally.

Karen Howard is a music therapist with more than 25 years of experience with individuals of all ages and abilities. She has collaborated on a number of original musicals for children and been involved in international trainings.

Professionals that attend this in-service will have the opportunity to be involved in the Freedom in Elements weekend program. The cost is $100 per person or $75 per person for groups of five or more. Bernard is also the contact for registration for the in-service. Email her at nbernard20@gmail.com or call 916-276-3066.

APA serves more than 150 community members in Butte County and outlying areas. The program has many outreach and service-learning programs for the community, such as the autism clinic, a rehab program for adults with physical disabilities, a family workout program geared towards families with members with autism, and a fitness and nutrition program for kids 9 to 17 with autism spectrum disorders.