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Winning Drama: Autism On Stage

January 31, 2014

WEST SPRINGFIELD, VA (January 31, 2014) -- Last year, the West Springfield High School drama department in Virginia won a state competition for "The Other Room,"  a tragic tale about a high-functioning teenage boy with autism whose attempts to connect with classmates is doomed by voices in his head.

“But something nagged at me every time I watched the play,” said Bernie DeLeo, the high school’s drama teacher and the father of a son with autism.

“It left people with the feeling ultimately that to live with autism is a sad and tragic thing – whereas in my experience, it has been anything but that," DeLeo said. "It’s not without challenges, but more often than not, life with my son Charlie is quite funny.”

So DeLeo sat down last year to write "Nerdicus,"  a one-act drama showing the comic aspects of a teenage life with autism. It's now on stage starring Austin Morrison, a senior who is on the autism spectrum.

John Ariale, who has worked with Autism Speaks and the National Down Syndrome Society advancing legislation on Capitol Hill, blogs about this remarkable high school drama program.