Special Needs Articles


A place for special needs students to shine.

by Lisa Rodenbaugh / Contributor

Many of us take for granted our children will have the opportunity to shine on the football field or take center stage in a band concert or a musical.  For families with a special needs child, this may be impossible to imagine.  One program in Plano has a 20 year history of making the impossible possible. The North Texas Performing Arts Starcatchers program is a pioneer in employing drama and musical theatre in the therapy of special needs youth and adults.  It has been providing opportunities for special needs children and adults to take the spotlight since 1997.   Starcatcher students are given opportunities to shine through drama, music, dance, and visual art. Due to the multi-sensory nature of the arts, increased involvement is associated with increased academic achievement and development of motor, communication, and social skills.

The Starcatchers program offers musical productions designed specifically for students with special needs.  Students learn the fundamentals of theatre and how to work together as a group. Each student is paired with a trained teen or adult intern who assists their development through rehearsals and shadows them during performances. Together they learn lines, songs, and dances and together they allow each student their moment to shine on stage. Their “Journey to Oz” special needs production to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Plano Children’s Theatre’s performed to a sold out house in the fall of 2016.

Starcatchers get the ability to “rock out” with the Rock Stars program.  In this music therapy group students learn the fundamentals of music and the major rock instruments of keyboard, drums, bass, guitar, percussion and vocals, and will be assigned one of these based on their interest and ability.  Taught by music therapy specialists, the instruments and music are adapted to the individual and group skill level. Each student is paired with a trained teen or adult intern who assists student development through rehearsals and guides them during the concert.

Starcatcher Art students explore and express themselves through the visual arts. Students learn through painting, drawing, and crafting. The Starcatcher Dance workshop allows students to learn the fundamentals of dance, core strength, and coordination through instruction and movement games.

Starcatchers gain self-confidence, independence, and the ability to express him or herself and experience praise and recognition for a job well done.  Parents get to watch their child transformed on stage and receive praise from their peers and others. In addition to

learning, the Starcatcher Management Board creates fun social activities to allow the students opportunities to socialize with their friends.

Dr. Brian Celico notes “Starcatchers has given our son the opportunity to do what he loves to do. This has greatly enriched his life and has provided him a great sense of camaraderie, pride and personal satisfaction.”

Sara Egelston Akers, NTPA Executive Director and founder of the Starcatchers program is passionate about this program.  “Our mission is to develop the character of youth through quality performing arts experiences and family entertainment. Our Starcatcher program allows for those that may have once felt invisible to be visible.”

For more information visit Starcatchers.org

North Texas Performing Arts Willow Bend Center for the Arts at Shops at 

Willow Bend  972.422.2575

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