New research suggests that reciting Shakespeare and participating in other drama exercises can make a big difference for kids with autism.

Children on the spectrum who took part in 10 hour-long sessions of a social skills intervention focusing on theater techniques saw improved language skills and socialization, according to findings published recently in the journal Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

For the study, 14 kids with autism ages 10 to 13 participated in an intervention known as the “Hunter Heartbeat Method,” which was developed by an actress at London’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

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The children attended weekly sessions that included games based on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” designed to enhance eye contact, gross motor imitation, personal space, taking turns and other social skills. During the meetings, participants had an opportunity to practice, receive feedback and perform for each other.

“These children are taught these core skills in a very relaxed and playful environment, where it’s almost like they’re not aware they’re being taught,” said Marc Tassé of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and a co-author of the study.

Researchers assessed the kids before starting the intervention and again after they completed the sessions.

Ultimately, Tassé said, “children with autism showed significant improvement in their social skills and their ability to engage in social relationships.”