Learning not to look someone in the eyes | VailDaily.com

Learning not to look someone in the eyes

Katie Drucker
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyJason Cirkovic, who is autistic, was cast for the lead as the baker in the Porchlighit Players production of "Into the Woods, Jr." Here, Cirkovic and Rachael Smith, playing the baker's wife, perform at the Lundgren Outdoor Theater.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” When Jason Cirkovic was 2 years old, his parents were told there was a very strong possibility he would never speak. The Cirkovics did not accept this.

The Cirkovics used some sign language with Jason, but did not want him to get dependent on it. They worked hard with the support of specialists to help Jason speak, and when he was five, he began to talk, in gibberish or ‘Jasonese’ as they called it. Jason is one of an estimated 500,000 individuals younger than 21 who has autism, according to eMedTV.

Today Jason is 14 years old, and he can definitely speak. In fact, on June 25 and 26, he was one of the leads in the Porchlight Players Children’s Theater Camp performance “Into the Woods, Junior.”

“People hear the term autism and assume they can’t do anything,” says Jason’s mom Teresa Cirkovic. “But with a little accommodation, modification and sometimes patience, these kids can do everything,”

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Although Jason’s autism created some challenges with starring in the play, it also benefited his performance.

“The first challenge was not staring at the person next to me … I couldn’t do that in the play,” Jason says.

An autistic tendency is to not look people in the eyes.

“We trained him for 14 years to look at the person that he is talking to and in three weeks he had to learn how to not look at the person he was talking to,” Teresa says.

If Jason practiced a scene one way and then was told to change what he had practiced, it would throw him, says the play’s director, Ann Olin. This is another autistic tendency.

“But Jason would just walk away and cool off and then come back,” Olin says.

Also, Teresa says. when Olin would correct Jason, he would take it very personally.

“It was hard for me because different people were telling me what to do… I just took things one at a time. Very slowly,” Jason recalls.

“We like to focus on the bonuses one gets from being autistic,” Teresa says. One such benefit is being intensely focused on one thing.

“I think this helped him in the performance because he memorized the whole play, everybody’s lines,” Teresa says. Jason also learned his lines quickly and was focused on the job that needed to be done.

“He did a great job,” Olin says.

This was the second play that Jason participated in and he plans to continue acting.

“Anybody can do anything if they put their heart into it,” Jason says.

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