Special-needs students love class designed for them

May 9 2011 - 11:28pm

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NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Student Ashlund Humphrey sings during Clearfield city’s special-needs singing, dance and music class at Clearfield Aquatic Center on Wednesday.
NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
(From left) Ashlund Humphrey, Mary Ann McMullin and Laycee Nye dance during Clearfield city’s special-needs singing, dance and music class at Clearfield Aquatic Center on Wednesday.
NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Student Ashlund Humphrey sings during Clearfield city’s special-needs singing, dance and music class at Clearfield Aquatic Center on Wednesday.
NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
(From left) Ashlund Humphrey, Mary Ann McMullin and Laycee Nye dance during Clearfield city’s special-needs singing, dance and music class at Clearfield Aquatic Center on Wednesday.

CLEARFIELD -- Life is at times frustrating for MaryAnn McMullin, 29, who has always loved to dance.

McMullin has Down syndrome, although she is high-functioning.

Her mother, Charline Doerr, remembers taking her then-9-year-old daughter to dance classes. Though McMullin enjoyed the ballet and tap, and even did pretty well, the classes never met all of her needs.

"Life is frustrating for her," Doerr said. "She wants all the things that a normal 29-year-old wants. It's difficult."

Now there is an avenue for McMullin to get more enjoyment out of dancing. She has been participating in a special-needs dance and singing class, offered through Clearfield city.

"This meets her needs. It gives her a chance to be with her peer group. She relates to them," Doerr said. "The social interaction is all positive."

Plus, she said, the instructor, JoAnn Parker, is fantastic.

"The common denominator is love," Doerr said. "The kids know it. She just loves the kids."

That, combined with a program that offers the variety of music, dancing and singing, adds up.

"What's not to like about it?" Doerr said.

Program Coordinator Melissa Haynes said the class is geared toward ages 11 and up. All participants are required to be accompanied by a peer support person such as a family member.

"This class is designed for them," Haynes said. "It is designed for people with altered abilities. It gives them a chance to participate, enjoy themselves and develop their talents."

Parker said there are many purposes to having such a class available.

Parker, who taught dance for 25 years and directed the Sunshine Generation in the 1980s, has spent her life involved in singing and dancing.

"This offers experiences in singing and dancing for students who struggle in regular classes," she said. "They have the opportunity to progress."

Parker recently retired from Davis School District, where she worked as a teaching assistant in special education. When she retired, she wanted to bring something special to those special-needs kids.

"We felt there aren't a lot of programs out there designed for people with special needs," Haynes said. "It's a program we want to keep going. We want there to be opportunities out there."

The class has five students, and support people are involved. Haynes hopes it keeps growing because of the special experience it provides.

Parker agreed and said it is an incredible experience to watch and be part of.

"The whole class is just so much fun," she said. "It's fun to see them progress. They are just happy the whole time they are there.

"They are able to self-express and be very successful in what they are doing."

The group is now working toward a special recital. Felicity Dance Academy, in Layton, has asked the group to participate in its annual recital at 7 p.m. Thursday at North Davis Junior High School, 835 S. State St., in Clearfield.

The public is welcome to watch the recital.

Haynes and Parker also hope more people will join the weekly class. It runs from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. each Wednesday through May.

The cost is $20/resident and $25/nonresident. For more information, call 801-525-2640.

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