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Circus Training for Autistic Children: Difference, Creativity, and Community

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2017


Circus training can benefit children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and their families. In 2010, as Head Trainer at Flipside Circus in Brisbane, Kristy Seymour developed a method for using circus as a therapeutic tool for children with autism. In this article, she and Patricia Wise work between experiential and theoretical positions to explore how circus can open up a new world to such children, enabling them to take risks physically and emotionally, and to stretch the capacities of their bodies in an environment that enriches their social development. Seymour and Wise deploy the idea of ‘chaosmos’ from Deleuze and Guattari, Pope, and others to argue that, counter-intuitively, children with autism benefit from the environment of creative chaos that attends circus. Through Agamben's work on being and singularity they discuss how circus values difference and inclusivity, building community in ways also captured by Probyn's notion of ‘outside belonging’. Kristy Seymour has worked for over sixteen years in contemporary circus as an aerialist, trainer, artistic director, creative producer, and choreographer. She has a significant profile in the youth circus sector, and is completing doctoral research on Australian contemporary circus in Griffith University's School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science. An Associate Professor in the same School, Patricia Wise is a cultural theorist whose publications range over cultural policy and urban studies, inflected by interests in spatiality, materiality and gender. This article reflects a parallel concern with cultural practices in communities of difference, as does a recent co-publication on the value of participatory music for the welbeing of detained asylum seekers.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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