MIDVALE – It can be difficult for children with special needs to express themselves, but through music and dance they can shine on stage.
A production of "Aladdin" in Midvale features a unique cast – all characters are played by students from Jordan Valley, which is a school for children with severe disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorders, communication impairments, genetic disorders and syndromes as well as deafness and blindness.
“It's an event for our students to shine,” said Mark Donnelly, Principal of Jordan Valley School.
Music Therapist Caitlin Newberger says a lot of behind-the-scenes people help pull off the production.
“It's a huge collaboration of teachers, ESPs, related services all helping to get the kids on stage to perform and have the opportunity to do their best for parents," Newberger said.
Teachers also help students verbalize their lines through use of pre-programmed iPads.
Newberger says expressing themselves on stage can help the students connect with others off stage.
“By rehearsing lines, we're working on communication skills," Newberger said. "By having them come on stage and do a dance, we're working on them sustaining attention. We're increasing abilities to follow instructions.”
Donnelly said the play gives the students a chance to press out beyond their boundaries.
“They're very comfortable here at Jordan Valley, so to see them actually be nervous a little bit and overcome that, that's also exciting to see,” Donnelly said.
Parents were thrilled with their performance.
“He thrives on stage. It is absolutely wonderful. I think it makes him grow,” said Sabrina Imig about her son Noah.
They’re also grateful teachers have given students the spotlight.
“The patience and the work they do with these children to bring them out of their shell, to get non-verbal kids to communicate, is just tremendous,” Imig said.
“I would pay money to see these kids. There is nothing like it,” said Lisa Pauley, another parent.
With a small budget, the school relies on volunteers who donate their time, props and costumes.
Students have one more performance scheduled for Thursday, March 24th.