Second City expands Improv for Autism to western suburbs

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Every Saturday, Giant Steps Therapeutic Day School is transformed into a Second City Improv Class. (WLS)

Chicago's Second City has expanded their Improv for Autism program to young adults with autism in the western suburbs.

Every Saturday, Giant Steps Therapeutic Day School is transformed into a Second City Improv Class.

"With Second City, they are so innovative themselves and they saw opportunities so we kind of migrated together because we saw synergy," said Sylvia Smith, Giant Steps executive director.

This year, Improv for Autism launched its first class for youth ages 14 - 18 in Lisle, giving students in the city and the suburbs a chance to take part.

"We really were seeing a need to expand it to the suburbs. We just really weren't getting a lot of people driving in, it can be a tough drive. As we connected with the folks out here we realized it could just open us up to a lot of families that we we're connecting with," said Abby Wagner, VP of training centers at Second City.

The class is just like any other improve class with slight modifications. Instructors change the speed of the class to a slightly slower pace and add more repetitions so that the students feel successful.

"It's unbelievable, a student can walk in on the first day with no intention to participate, not verbal at all and by the first or second class they've made a friendship connection, they're laughing and have come out of their shell. It is absolutely astonishing and so cool," Wagner said.

"Then they have fun doing it so our kids just sit and realize they can be themselves and its OK and I'm having fun with it. Hopefully what it does is it transfers into their daily lives and into their communication and their social situations to make them understand that they're ok too," Smith said.

So far the expansion has been a success and the hope is for the class to continue to grow.

"I hope that this goes on and we have a continuing partnership with Second City. I'd like my son to go again, but so that we can offer for additional children to that couldn't get into the first round. Who knows once this gets out there that this is going on I think we're going to have a lot of parents that are really interested in their children participating," said Debra Nauman, parent and founder of Giant Steps.

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