NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)  — An unusual acting class is using Shakespeare to help children with autism.

British actress Kelly Hunter developed the Hunter Heartbeat Method, drawing on the rhythm and repetition of lines from Shakespearean plays.

In a new study, Dr. Marc Tasse, the director of the Nisonger Center at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and his team staged an intervention using Hunter’s method.

“They’re taught these core skills in a very relaxed, playful environment, in which it’s almost like they’re not aware that they’re being taught,” Tasse told CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

After 10 weeks of the classes, the children showed better language skills, more social interaction and for some, recognition of facial expressions, which is often a challenge for those with autism.

Before taking the classes, 10-year-old Chase Davis was terrified of dogs, including his family’s pet.

“He’s been more apt to go in and help with the dog or even just help with the household chores in general,” Davis’s mother, Heather, said after he completed the classes.

Like many parents of children with autism, she was skeptical. But since her son took the stage, she’s noticed a difference.

“It was watching a completely different child for those few moments. And he loved it, he absolutely found pure joy in it,” she said.

The study was small with only 14 children, spanning from ages 10 to 14 years old, but it only required one hour a week after school for 10 weeks.

The results were evaluated by independent researchers who were unaware of the purpose of the study.


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