Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) is proud to announce that Elaine Hall and her pioneer organization, The Miracle Project, will bring a new course curriculum to children with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs in 2017. As a Miracle Project provider, MPAC will offer this unique program for the first time anywhere in New Jersey, utilizing music, dance and theatre to unlock the creativity, personalities, and great potential of children.
This program builds on MPAC’s commitment to serve all members of the community, including children with autism and other special needs, by combining a traditional inclusion-based arts education program with the use of student aides and peers in the classroom.
The Miracle Project is an evidenced-based, award-winning program that uses music, dance and theatre to bring out the best of children with autism and their typically developing peers. Through a method called Inclusion from WithIn (I Win) and the “Seven Keys to Unlock Autism,” the program addresses the core challenges of autism – communication, behavior and socialization. Its goal is to provide children with tools to build communication, social skills, and self-esteem through inclusive theater, and to become part of a performing arts community.
“We are thrilled to bring our Miracle Project training to MPAC,” said Elaine Hall, founder and artistic director of The Miracle Project. “The need for this program is profound. The rate of New Jersey children diagnosed with autism is much higher than the national average. MPAC and The Miracle Project are so aligned in the way we approach the arts that it was such a natural fit.”
The Miracle Project’s arrival at MPAC comes at a time when a staggering 2.5 percent of children in the state are diagnosed with autism, considerably higher than the national average of 1.5 percent.
Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. Symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas.
In preparation for the launch of the two session course offering beginning in January 2017, MPAC educators will train directly with Hall and her team this December in the methods that her groundbreaking, West Coast-based program has developed for the past 12 years.
Hall will give a free public lecture on Mon., Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the MPAC. The lecture, titled Elaine Hall and Inclusion from WithIn and The Seven Keys to Unlock Autism, will discuss how the program uses performing arts to provide children on the autism spectrum with tools to build communication, social skills and self-esteem through inclusive theater, and how she plans to implement that program at MPAC.
Added Hall, “Our training programs understand the specific sensory and emotional needs of children with autism. Imparting this training to the MPAC educators will enable them to not just assist with intervention techniques, but ultimately provide the right theatrical foundation for future theatre, film and television professionals in a way that encourages belonging to a theatrical community.”
“Establishing The Miracle Project at MPAC is a milestone for our arts education program and an amazing opportunity for us to expand our offerings to serve children of all needs,” said Cathy Roy, MPAC education director. “We’re looking forward to training with Elaine Hall and becoming certified as the only Miracle Project provider in the state of New Jersey where 1 in 41 children are affected by autism. There is a great need here for a program like this and we are very honored to be a part of it. The program is aligned with our philosophy of building self-esteem and acceptance through the use of collaboration and artistic expression.”
The spring 2017 semester will offer two course opportunities. One course will be offered to 10 students with autism, ages nine through 15, who require individual aides and 10 neuro-typical “peer mentor” students who volunteer to undergo the program alongside their peers with autism.
The second course will feature 10 students with autism, ages nine through 15, who do not require individual aides, along with 10 neuro-typical students. Each course runs 22 weeks, and culminates in an open-class presentation.
The concept of pairing students with autism with others who do not allows the students with autism to learn from their neuro-typical peers, engendering social skills and invaluable friendships.
“MPAC is committed to making the performing arts accessible to all members of our community without any barriers,” said Allison Larena, President and CEO, Mayo Performing Arts Center. “The launch of The Miracle Project program at MPAC significantly enhances our offerings for children on the autism spectrum and with other disabilities through a revolutionary and specialized theatre training program.”
For more information on The Miracle Project at MPAC, go to https://www.mayoarts.org/education/the-miracle-project.