Art programs for adults with special needs make a difference

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Merrimack Hall is a performing arts center in Huntsville that provides art, music, and theater classes for children and adults with special needs.

Jen DiCarlo, the Outreach Director and an Instructor at Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center says, “I think we build confidence in people. 

More than 41 million Americans have some type of disability. Programs for those with special needs are mostly accessible for children. But, Jen DiCarlo at Merrimack Hall tells us, those with special needs have limited resources after a certain age. 

Jen DiCarlo tells us, “Once a student graduates from high school at 21, a lot of our students have gone to high school until 21, there’s just very little offered. 

Over 75 percent of special needs adults are without employment. So, for many, a place like Merrimack is a dream. Jen DiCarlo adds, “Parents say, their students would be home or at home with them just sitting on the couch or playing video games.” 

20 year old, Laura Matus is a student at Merrimack, who’s already lived a big life. She competed in the 2017 Special Olympics in Austria for figure skating. But, she says, everyday at Merrimack is a new adventure. 

Laura tells us she loves, “dancing, acting, yoga– all kinds of stuff.” She says she can try something new every day. Like learning a new instrument. She’s practicing the ukulele.

From dance lessons, to hip hop classes, abstract art to set design– these locals get to have their hand in just about everything.

Jen DiCarlo tells us, “It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t go right the first time, we’ll just try it again a different way.” 

Merrimack is a free-thinking space, where everyone can be themselves. As their founder, Debra Jenkins, loves to say, “normal is just a dryer setting”.

Students at Merrimack are gearing up for their next show– which will be in May. 

Jen DiCarlo tells us, Merrimack is always accepting new students, and looking for volunteers.  If you want to know how you or a loved one can get involved with Merrimack Hall, click here.

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