LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An Indiana mom has launched a new theater group for young performers who happen to be on the Autism spectrum.
According to a report by Fox 59, The Carmel Spectrum Players will have its inaugural show on Nov. 1. It will be a special Cabaret production -- and the drama team is looking for more performers to be in the show.
The group's credo is that everyone -- including those on the Autism spectrum -- has talent that deserves to be seen on stage.
The group, which is part of the Jacksonville Foundation, was started by Mari Sandifer. Sandifer has a son, Jack, who was born with Asperger's.
She says it was a struggle at first to learn how to navigate life with a son with special needs.
"When he was younger, it was a time of isolation and darkness for me," Sandifer said. "I isolated myself, and I was very sad and very frightened. I didn't know what we were dealing with."
She says she soon realized that there was a reason she was on this unique journey with Jack: to learn how to help other parents going through a similar situation. She even wrote a book to help others realize they are never alone.
"I would tell them that their child is not a mistake," she said. "Their child is a gift from God and the child is created exactly how he was supposed to be."
"Raising someone like Jack that's so special and different has been a blessing," she said. "I had no idea when he was little what gifts he would give me in my life."
She says one of those gifts jack would give her would be the inspiration to start the Carmel Spectrum Players.
It started when Jack took to singing and performing at a young age, surprising his mom by how much of a natural he was.
"When he was young, he was very dramatic in his play, and I just thought that was because of his unique imagination; it was always going to these special places," she said. "But I didn't know how it would translate in the real world and apparently it translates very well; he's very sincere in his enthusiasm."
One of Jack's first shows was "The Music Man" at the Tarkington Theater. He was only in fourth grade.
"Honestly, I wasn't even nervous," Jack laughed. "I knew what would happen, I knew I'd be dressing up, I'd be going on the stage and singing. I was in the ensemble, but still, it was just fun."
Jack says he's never seen having Asperger's as a disadvantage in life. In fact, he sees it as more of a reason to perform; to be an inspiration for others on the spectrum.
"It's helped me want to pursue my choir life, and it's helped me want to keep taking shows wherever I can," he said. "I think it's helped me discover and unblock a whole new secret; a new way of expressing my voice and talent and performance."
Jack is one of the performers in the Carmel Spectrum Players Cabaret show. Of course, he plans on singing. But Jack says this time, it's more than just about performing; it's about motivating others to just go for it.
"It's going to bring special awareness to other people who are on the spectrum," he said. "I believe that me performing, I think by multiple children of autism performing, it brings awareness that autism isn't just one thing. It's a whole spectrum; it can come in many different ways."
"I know that every person has an innate need to feel like they matter, and these kids are very special, and they have rich imaginations," said Sandifer. "They have gifts to share, and they don't always get an opportunity to shine. If we can provide an outlet and an opportunity to get on stage and to perform and to hear the applause -- that's our goal."
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