Empowering and Shaping Children With Special Needs
Participants at KidZCreateKidzCreate Grant Story 
By Judith Rosenberg – Founder & Director, Spark of Brilliance
 
(2005 Musagetes Fund grant ) - “It’s like trying to put a square peg in a round hole”, explained a frustrated mother of her beautiful young daughter with autism. “Our kids just don’t fit”.

Parents and other stakeholders from the special needs community along with representatives from the mainstream came together with the intention of designing a creative process for children and youth living with autism, mental health issues, developmental and other life challenges and brain injury.

They had been searching for unique programming that would empower, teach new skills, develop capacities for socialization and help discover and uncover true joy and a sense of accomplishment through creative experiences. Much of what was being offered through available programming, they explained, required a certain level of compliance to predetermined behavioural and output processes that the parents felt were counter-productive for their children.

‘KidZCreate’ provides special needs children quality programming that reaches deep into the natural ability for self-expression. The initiative encourages and builds upon each the creative spirit and helps to mold and shape each child’s imagination and in-bred love of play.

Owen the St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog and his owner Marlene Gordon delighted and taught the children how “Dogs Are Our Friends. “Bunky the Therapeutic Clown” from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto introduced the children to ‘finding the clown within’ through dress-up and pretend. Mask making with Goldie Sherman, local Ceramics Artist, provided the opportunity to create a finished product from a simple ball of clay. Other activities included horticulture where a pair of colourful rubber boots became a miniature garden and ‘The Enchanted Forest’ with Laura Lee Therrien where the children learned about the fairies and pixies who live there. The launch celebration with Jan Sherman and the Women’s Dance Circle included drumming and chanting and brought a new understanding of Aboriginal traditions.

Intentionally, children with special needs, their parents and siblings and supportive allies were invited to work and play side-by-side with children who are traditionally developing encouraging integration and building awareness of each other’s gifts and talents while breaking down the barriers that breed isolation and prejudice.

The Guelph Community Foundation's Musagetes Fund made all of this possible through a grant to Spark of Brilliance – the umbrella organization that established KidZCreate and partnerships with such organizations as: KidsAbility, Trellis Mental Health & Developmental Services, Autism Ontario, Kerry’s Place, PlaySense and others, brought the children they serve to experience the magic of this unique initiative.