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New drama program helps facilitate communication skills
The WICA campus is bustling with minds ready to learn from 13 different classes offered in the summer program. There are classes for all ages including introduction to musical theater and character development. A new class began this year for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, called TIC-TOC.
The new class was spearheaded by former WICA student, Mykaylla Vederhoff 19, who now attends Manhattanville College. Vederhoff came to WICA with a proposal for this program after she received a $4,000 grant to fund it. She chose to return to her roots in theater and started the program at WICA. She said she couldn’t have chosen a better place.
“It’s fun to offer something different and comfortable to these kids,” Vederhoff said. “I want them to grow with this program and want them to come back. That’s my experience with WICA and I want to give that to others.”
Deana Duncan instructs the class with Vederhoff and said she is proud to see her come back to WICA.
“I’ve seen her grow through WICA and she has become a stronger communicator,” Duncan said. “It’s a great circle, she’s the first student to come back to teach.”
Students in the class learned theater basics such as clear communication skills, spatial awareness and how to interact with the audience — skills used every day, Vederhoff said.
“Children with special needs sometimes struggle with basic communication, here they don’t have to struggle,” she said.
Andrew Bishop, 12, a student in the class, said so far his favorite character to play in the class is Superman.
Andrew’s father, David Bishop, said the program is a great fit.
“Andrew loves to sing and dance,” he said. “He’s making friends with other kids with disabilities.”
To help with the class, Vederhoff sought the guidance of Liza Passemard, a licensed nurse, and Gerry Barrat, a special education instructor at Langley Middle School.
Passemard was thankful WICA created this experience.
“This is an excellent program,” Passemard said. “It’s fun to see the kids express themselves and be hams.”
Children with special needs are sometimes separated from the group, but that’s not the case here, they are part of the community.”
Duncan said in her 20 years of experience, theater changes lives. When that happens, she is glad to have the opportunity to work with children who learn differently.
“I’m excited to introduce them to a new skill set and help them find joy through theater,” Duncan said.
Vederhoff said she hopes the program continues in the future. For some kids, summer camp isn’t something they can always do and this program makes gives them more opportunities.
“I want to make communicating enjoyable for these kids, not frustrating. By putting communication in the context of the theater it allows them to grow in a way that isn’t scary,” she said.
“We already know that this program is a success.”