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Immersive theater from the UK helps children with special needs in China

(People's Daily Overseas New Media)    16:09, April 15, 2019

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Immersive theater, a special kind of theater that allows for more interaction, has become a bridge for special needs children to interact with the world in China, thanks to efforts from the China Welfare Institute and the UK’s Bammboozle Theatre.

The special immersive theater is designed for a small number of people to target different young patients with various diseases, from Down syndrome to autism. The theater and its actors and actresses will invite the special audience on stage for more interaction – a process that is believed to help them with their diseases.

According to Christopher Davies, founder of the Bammboozle Theatre, children with special needs bear the same wish to express themselves and the first step for them to participate in society is to treat them with equal respect instead of thinking of them as being incapable, news portal ThePaper reported.

For children like Yueyue (pseudonym), a patient with Down syndrome, the immersive theater has made him braver and more outgoing, according to the boy’s mother Hu Jie. “I used to take him to another theater, but it was like he was a puppet only. Now he can perform in front of others,” the mother said.

The Bammboozle Theatre reached out to the special group in 2016 when the Shanghai Children’s Art Theater decided to introduce the classic “Down to Earth” for young patients with cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. The Bammboozle Theatre also features other performances, including “Storm,” which is designed to target children with autism.

One year later, the China Welfare Institute launched a project to introduce the world’s best theaters for children with special needs. The project also trains domestic actors and actresses for the Chinese versions of the performances.

Through the project, more and more people can understand and recognize the concept of “listening, waiting, respecting, not evaluating” and truly apply this concept to their daily lives, noted Liang Xiaoxia, general manager of the Shanghai Children’s Art Theater.

“When everyone starts treating people around them in this way, the society will become warmer and more tolerant,” Liang said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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