MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dream Catchers is a music therapy program that brings together children from ages 5-18 who do, and don’t, have some form of disability.
Grace Lauzon, the creative Arts Therapy Coordinator at the Center for Excellence in Disabilities, is in charge of the program and said they provide accommodations for any type of developmental or physical disability.
Lauzon said that registration is still open and parents can sign their child up for the spring semester, which will last about 14 weeks and meet weekly.
“The reason why it was created was because there were spaces for kids without disabilities and spaces for kids with disabilities but not together,” Lauzon said. “So this is the first program of its kind, that I came about, where it really is all-inclusive for kids to have a musical theater experience.”
She encouraged people to register as soon as possible because there are limited spots, they aim for less than 15 children. Dream Catchers, Lauzon said, relies on collaboration between the West Virginia University School of Medicine and Creative Arts College, both of whom, provide students and direct support throughout the process.
Lauzon said occupational health students even design programs that will address the child’s individual needs. This spring, she said, they are performing a play about a town of monsters that put on a talent show.
“The shows we choose for Dream Catchers usually has some type of positive message about individuality, support, creativity, being yourself, which is what we encourage our participants to do,” Lauzon said.
She said a typical rehearsal starts with a welcome activity that might involve singing, playing with instruments or just moving around the space. While kids rehearse, there is a parent cafe lead by Lori C Heginbotham, one of her colleagues, she said, for the parents to find support and to relax.
Lauzon said the goal, in her mind, is to have a space where kids can make new friends and reconnect with old friends they have made in previous years.
“Change can happen in as little as one session or as long as an entire semester, or across years,” she said. “And there are definitely participants that have been here since the beginning and while I didn’t get to see them in the very beginning, I get to hear stories about how much they have not only opened up in the group but outside the group. Even though it is not strictly therapeutic, that’s the whole goal, we want to give them skills that they can generalize, that stick with them when we’re not in rehearsals.”
At the end of the day, Lauzon said they are a nonprofit that needs funding through donations to help make their programs as cost-effective to the families as possible.
“If you are feeling extra generous and want to help contribute to the program, money can go toward buying a script or buying the rights to a show or it can go toward a cast party, making sure that every kid has a flower at the end of the performance,” Lauzon said.