Medical Minute 12-29:

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

As a carefree 10-year-old, Kerrick Coble doesn't hold back, but he wasn't always like this. When Kerrick was two the Cobles' started noticing something was different about him.

"With a lot of kids you would give them something and they would play but with Kerrick there was never a 'I'm just going to play," said Kurt Coble/Kerrick's dad.

At three, Kerrick was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder or PDDNOS - a mild form of autism. Now researchers at Vanderbilt University are using the theater to help improve the lives of kids diagnosed with the disorder -- from mild to severe.

"We really want to understand whether these social experiences are really stressful for some of our children," said Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Director SENSE Theater Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

Doctor Blythe Corbett looks at social and communication skills before, during and after the camp and looks at stress levels by measuring one of the primary stress hormones--cortisol.

In three different studies, Doctor Corbett found acting improved the way kids expressed themselves and they also showed lower stress levels.

"The cortisol level was quite high when they first arrived the first day but after the rehearsal, it actually went down quite a bit."

So far, Kerrick's been in two plays. Landing the lead role in his last performance.

"I've seen a big difference in his initiating skills," said Michelle Coble/Kerrick's Mom.

Helping his new found skills take center stage.

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