SENSE Theatre Camp

SENSE Theatre Camp Pic

2017 Performances:

Friday, Mar. 10, &
Saturday, Mar. 11

SENSE Theatre Camp is a 2-week day camp for youth, 7-18 years of age, with and without autism spectrum disorders. This is not a residential camp.

Enrollment in the winter and summer programs is determined in the fall. To sign up to receive information about future programs, complete this form. Please note: this is not a residential camp and therefore campers are responsible for their own lodging.

To apply for a peer camper position, please complete the application at this LINK.

SENSE Theatre Camp Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the goal of the camp?
A: The goal of the camp is to improve the social and emotional functioning and reduce stress in children with autism through using behavioral and theatre techniques. The children with autism are paired with trained typically developing youth actors that serve as expert models of social interaction as well as co-actors on the stage. Youth with and without autism from 7-18 years of age will participate in the camp. The campers’ efforts will culminate in two performances at the end of the two weeks

Q: Can I sign my child up for the SENSE Theatre Camp?
A: There is an application process for the Camp. We have a limited number of slots available. Applying for Camp does not guarantee you a slot.

Q: does my child meet the criteria for attendiing the Camp?
A: Criteria are:

  • An autism spectrum disorder diagnosis
  • Minimum age at time of camp: 7 years Maximum age: 18 years
  • Verbal and able to respond to directions
  • Toilet trained
  • Non-aggressive

Q: How much does the camp cost?

A: Participation in the camp is free to both campers and peer campers.

Q: When can I apply?
A: Applications are reviewed in the fall. You will automatically receive an application (and updates on the camp) if you are on the notification list. To join the notification list, fill out this complete this form

Q: If my child participated in a previous SENSE Theatre program, can we apply again?
A: Priority is given to new applicants, although we will consider past participants. Peer campers are welcome to return each summer.

Q: My child with autism has a typically developing sibling. Can I enroll the sibling as a peer camper?
A: The SENSE Theatre Summer Camp model pairs the campers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with unfamiliar, highly-trained typically developing peers. In our model, we teach the peers to engage the ASD camper using behavioral and theatre techniques in the process of learning a play. As such, we do not enroll siblings of campers because one of our primary goals is to allow the child with ASD to interact with novel peers to provide an opportunity to learn new skills and develop friendships.

Q: What are the Camp primary activities?
A: The campers participate in daily physical and vocal exercises, theatre games, role playing, improvisation, singing and more. These skills and activities are then translated into scenes as part of a play. Singing is, therefore, a requirement for participation. In addition, campers are expected to watch and practice videos of roles and scenes from home that are placed on a password protected website. This allows them to improve their learning and have fun practicing their parts from home too.

Q: What are the Camp hours?
A: Camp takes place in the afternoons Monday-Friday for two weeks. Peer campers are asked to participate in training the week before camp. The Thursday and Friday of the final week may have extended camp hours due to the need for longer rehearsals.

Q: Can I stay with my child during Camp?
A: Since one of the primary goals of SENSE Theatre is to help children to engage in social interaction with their peers, we ask that parents allow their children to attend camp on their own. This gives the child every opportunity to develop new friendships and to practice their developing social skills with supportive peers. However, parents are most welcome to attend the theater performances on Friday and Saturday!

Q: What does the research aspect of the camp look like?

Time Point Activity Duration of Activity Location
Pre-Camp Activities
(1 month before camp)
Parent Questionnaires 30 minutes Home
Pre-Camp Assessment 2 hours Village at Vanderbilt Clinic
Cortisol Home Sampling 2 minutes per sample
(4 samples/day for 3 days)
Peer Interaction 1 hour Playground
ERP Tasks 1 hour Kennedy Center
Camp Afternoon Camp Sessions 4 hours per session/
2 weeks
Saratt Cinema
Performance 2 hours per performance Saratt Cinema
Post-Camp Activities
(1 month after camp)
Parent Questionnaires 30 minutes Home
Post-Camp Assessment 2 hours Village at Vanderbilt Clinic
Cortisol Home Sampling 2 minutes per sample
(4 samples/day for 3 days)
Peer Interaction 1 hour Playground
ERP Tasks 1 hour Kennedy Center
(3 months after camp) Follow-Up Questionnaires 30 minutes Home

Q: What is salivary cortisol sampling?
A: Saliva sampling allows us to study the daily regulation of a stress hormone called cortisol. Your child will be asked to provide saliva samples at home four times during the day (at approximately 8:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.) for three consecutive days (e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday). A total of 24 saliva samples (12 at the beginning of the treatment and 12 at the end of the treatment) will be collected by you in your home (training provided).

Q: What is ERP research?
A: ERP stands for event-related potential, which is a measured brain response to either an internal or external event. In other words, it is a measured brain response that is the result of a thought, perception or action. Testing will involve recording your child's brain waves using soft sensors placed on your child's head. These sensors are arranged like a shower cap. Once the net is in place, your child will look at pictures on a computer screen. To learn more, please visit: The ERP Topic Page

Information about Peer Campers

Typically developing children will serve as peer models for children with autism, modeling appropriate social and emotional behavior. SENSE Theatre peers must complete a three day pre-program training. You will learn specific skills to successfully work with children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. The intervention program includes rehearsals, therapeutic practice sessions and theatre rehearsals that will culminate in a performance of a musical. The performances will take place over two weekend evenings. The practice and rehearsals will involve working with a psychologist, a theatre director and fellow cast members. The practice/rehearsal sessions will involve learning about understanding and expressing emotions, speaking and using gestures in new ways, and imitating other people’s behavior. During various practices and during the performances, you may will be videotaped while performing. The videotapes will be used for coding behavioral responses and to show to children with autism to assist them in the intervention process.

To apply for a peer camper position, please complete the application at this link:

There is no cost for peer campers to attend camp.


If you have questions...

  • about ACM music camp, please contact
  • about NSSI, please contact Felicia Johnson at
  • about SENSE Theatre Camp, please contact Ian Muse at (615) 322-4132 or