Improv for Alzheimer’s, dementia patients

Five of the six members of the Memory Ensemble were gathered in a nondescript conference room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, ready to begin their weekly improvisational acting workshop.

“Where’s Irv? We need Irv,” one said.“Oh, he’s always late,” said another. “He’s very dependable that way.”

At first glance, they could have been any group of energetic older Americans dipping their toes into amateur theater. But it was soon evident that this was not a social event: Ensemble members exhibited pronounced physical and verbal tics, abrupt lapses in conversation and other telltale signs of the cognitive disorders that characterize dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A collaboration between the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and the Lookingglass Theater Company, the Memory Ensemble is what organizers believe is a first-of-its-kind program that seeks to improve the quality of life for people dealing with the early stages of memory loss.

The seven-week pilot session is designed to give newly diagnosed participants a “safe and supportive environment where they can challenge themselves but still feel secure,” said Christine Mary Dunford, an ensemble member at Lookingglass Theater.

via Chicago News Cooperative – Trying Improv as Therapy for Those With Memory Loss – NYTimes.com.

Fun activities for children with autism in new book

CHICAGO — Susan Walton’s son has autism. He was diagnosed at age 2, when she was pregnant with twins. Spontaneity, she learned, would quickly become a thing of the past, as predictability and routine became of the utmost importance.

But the mom of three was determined to keep her family’s life filled with joy.

“The biggest mistake we can make is to put family fun at a low priority,” she writes in her new book, “Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines: 50+ Activities, Adventures and Celebrations for Families with Children with Autism” Sourcebooks, $14.99. “It is easy to be consumed by the role autism forces us to play. We are caretakers, therapists, nutritionists, nurses, taxi drivers and so much more.”But for the sake of your child and your family, having fun needs to form a central part of any intervention and therapy you pursue.”

via The Republic – Fun needs to be on the checklist for a child with autism.

Chicago tower purple in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

Chicago’s Willis Tower lights are purple during the first week of November for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

The building’s architect, Bruce Graham, died of Alzheimer’s disease this year.

“It is not a secret that Bruce Graham was a magnificent architect,” said Erna Colborn, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Illinois, in a news release. “Mr. Graham helped shape the city skyline of Chicago designing such buildings as the Willis Tower and The John Hancock Center. He undoubtedly left his mark on the Windy City. He also battled Alzheimer’s disease, a disease which affects more than 500,000 Illinoisans.”

via Chicago’s Willis Tower turns purple in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month | abc7chicago.com.

Autistic boy can bring service dog to school

A legal battle over a boy and his dog has ended, allowing an autistic second-grader to bring his service dog to school for good.

In a ruling released Aug. 24, the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois said the Villa Grove Community Unit School District #302, located south of Champaign-Urbana, could not keep seven-year-old Kaleb Drew from attending school with his service dog, Chewey, setting a precedent in the first known case to challenge the Illinois School Code regarding service animals in schools. The school district has now granted Kaleb and Chewey a permanent hall pass, apparently ending the year-long battle.

via Dog fight ends with hall pass.