MARIETTA - Sometimes, it can be a little difficult to relate to a child, or even an adult, suffering from the effects of autism.
People with autism feel and perceive things differently, and it can lead to questions as to exactly how to interact with someone with the disorder.
Hiram College will present a local production of "It's Okay," a play designed to follow the life of someone with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. The show will be 7 p.m. March 5 as part of the kickoff to Developmental Disabilities Month and will be held at Ewing School, home of the Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
"The goal of Developmental Disabilities Month is awareness. It's also looking at the positives that are within a community when people with disabilities become part of that community and live, work and play within that community," said Ginger O'Connor, director of early childhood therapy with the WCBDD.
The play, which is a one-hour production, will be free and open to the public. It demonstrates the challenges that a person with Asperger's Syndrome may face growing up.
Roughly one in 100 children are diagnosed with autism each year, according to the Autism Center of Southeast Ohio website, www.autismacso.org, making the disorder one of the fastest growing disabilities in the United States.
"It seems like everybody you talk to knows somebody with autism or Asperger's," said Karen Smith, of Marietta, president of the Autism Center of Southeast Ohio, who has a son diagnosed with autism.
Created by students, the play is designed to use the arts to educate the public.
Anything that can increase awareness of autism is beneficial, noted Allen Brokaw, of Marietta, board member with the Autism Center of Southeast Ohio.
"(The play) sounds like a great idea because it just further gets the message out about autism and the full spectrum," Brokaw said.
Part of a college course designed to explore a disease or disorder through theater performances, "It's Okay" provides insight into autism as performers were required to do research through literature and scientific papers as well as through personal interaction with people affected.
"This play is going to focus on children that are (in) middle school/high school and some of the challenges that they have. It just brings another piece of information to the audience," O'Connor said.
O'Connor booked the performance less than two hours after receiving an email from Hiram College in regards to the program. A total of 14 performances of the play will take part during the week of March 5-10.
The production will take place in the gym at Ewing School and O'Connor said actors will talk to parents with questions afterwards.
"We're just excited that we can bring this to the community," O'Connor said.
The Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities serves more than 400 people with disabilities across their lifespan.
Other activities planned for Developmental Disabilities Month include "A spectrum of apps for those on the autism spectrum" at Marietta College on Thursday, and a pair of fundraisers to benefit a summer camp. One takes place March 3 at the American Legion while the other will be breakfast with the Easter bunny March 31 at Ewing School.