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Dancing with the Creative Arts Project

Katie Laurino's vision of a dance class for special needs children is realized through the Creative Arts Project at the Rebecca Martin School of Dance, Point Pleasant, NJ.

“Mommy, Miss Katie has a big spider!” my youngest shouts breathlessly into my ear, and I have to smile in spite of my temporary deafness, because he is indeed correct in identifying that large arachnid.

Rather than terrifying him however, this eight-legged creature has inspired him to attempt some new dance moves, which I was fortunate enough to view through the glass partition separating parents from participants. He is beside himself with excitement, and I am witness to the same level of glee from the other children as they tumble through the door into the waiting arms of their moms and dads.

Miss Katie herself comes into the waiting area with Halloween goody bags, the prospect of which almost makes my son momentarily still as he absorbs the fact that after a fabulous hour of dancing, he will actually receive a gift too. He bounds over to her and hugs her, clutching his treasure, and remains motionless (for once!) as I slip on his socks and sneakers for our trip home.

John Travolta has nothing on Zach when it’s time to shake his bootie.

Zach has always liked moving around (perhaps that’s an understatement, as the child possesses more energy than me and my husband ever had, combined), but this affinity for dance has only been unleashed in him since he became a member of the Creative Arts Project.

The founder of the program, Katie Laurino, developed the idea in order to afford children with a myriad of developmental challenges the chance to participate in the arts in a meaningful, safe environment. The instructor and her assistants have incorporated the dual goals of promoting self-confidence and socialization into the classes, concepts dear to Ms. Katie’s heart.

The desired outcome of the lessons is to provide a forty-five minute class that helps children gain better body awareness, an understanding of dance, and facilitates creativity in movement.

If you could see Zach’s face after every lesson, you’d know there’s at least one child living out Miss Katie’s dream.

Ms. Laurino’s desire to create a place where children are encouraged just to be themselves came from a personal experience, one which inspired her to action. Upon relocating back to the Garden State after a half decade teaching dance in a North Carolina studio, she spent some time babysitting a family with two boys, one on the autism spectrum, and one who was neurotypical. Part of her duties included taking the children to karate class, where she often heard the other students publicly discussing how her charge with PDD-NOS was “different”. She wasn’t certain if the little boy comprehended what was being said about him, but she was confident his sibling understood it all. Miss Katie decided that he, and every child, deserved better.

And from a desire to transcend tolerance and promote acceptance, the Creative Arts Project was born.

The Creative Arts Project (CAP) holds several different reasonably-priced sessions on Friday afternoons, with placement of each child being determined by both age and level of ability. Miss Katie is hoping to add some new elements to the school soon, including yoga-for-kids, at a later date. The fancy footwork takes place at the Rebecca Martin School of Dance, 1628 Beaver Dam Road, Point Pleasant, NJ. For further information, please contact Katie Laurino at thecreativeartsproject@gmail.com

With Halloween over (sigh!) I can’t promise your kids spiders, but I can guarantee them all a great, and affordable, hour of fun.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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