Press Releases

Purchase Alum and Students Use Acting Techniques to Teach Communication Skills to Autism Spectrum Children

Date Released: 11/7/2007

Gorman Ruggiero, a graduate of the acting program at Purchase College, is using acting techniques to teach communications skills to high functioning autistic and Asperger’s Disorder children at King Street Elementary School in Port Chester, N.Y. Marcia Daly and Omar Bryan, psychology majors at Purchase College, are working with Ruggiero this semester and a small group of children ages six to eight.  The culmination of their work will be presented with a short performance at the school on December 14 at 10:30 AM.

Ruggiero worked with Purchase Professor Peter Ohring and other Purchase faculty and staff this summer to put together the pilot program for King Street. Ruggiero, Daly and Bryan meet once a week with the children for a 70-minute workshop in the school library followed by a one-hour debriefing session.

Ruggiero is interested in training Purchase acting and psychology students to do similar work, and he and Ohring would like to expand the program to a second school. The program can provide arts and psychology students with an applied experience while engaging them in a service learning project that benefits the local community.

Gorman Ruggiero graduated in 1976 from the Purchase College School of the Arts, Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film. He is currently founder and executive director of World Theatre of Children in Newtown, Penn. While at Purchase, he began to teach children acting skills in museum programs and elementary schools. He later taught theatre and acting to children in Saratoga, N.Y. and founded and developed a child acting company called the Lake Avenue Theatre of Children. He was also tapped to write and perform his own television character for a local TV station in central New York. In 1985 he moved to Philadelphia and worked with at-risk youth producing shows at various community centers in the city then was hired to teach at the exclusive Baldwin School for Girls in Philadelphia, producing 14 shows a year of various lengths. He also designed and managed a Performing Arts Camp for the Julian Krinsky Organization in the Delaware Valley. He started a summer program at the Newtown Friends School in 1994, and in 1997 was retained as a crisis intervention counselor with at-risk youth, writing and producing a short film with the children. In addition to World Theatre of Children, he recently opened the Painted Pony Ranch Performing Arts Camp where children can experience the outdoors, the arts, and develop work ethic and success strategies. Gorman is also working on a new research program with the Philadelphia Mental Health Center.

Dr. Peter Ohring is an Associate Professor of Mathematics/Computer Science and New Media in the Purchase College School of Natural and Social Sciences. He is also the father of an autistic child.