Benefit for special-needs arts programs set for May 10

“Let Every Child Shine,” a benefit for special-needs arts programs, starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10 at Emerald Ballet Theatre (EBT), 12368 Northup Way, Bellevue.

“Let Every Child Shine,” a benefit for special-needs arts programs, starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10 at Emerald Ballet Theatre (EBT), 12368 Northup Way, Bellevue.

Tickets are $50.

Teachers and students from Redmond will participate — along with viola virtuoso/painter Emmanuel Vardi and his wife, concert violinist/artist Lenore Vardi.

The Vardis recently relocated from New York City to North Bend. Emmanuel was a member of the NBC Symphony under famed conductor Arturo Toscanani and Lenore has recorded with Itzhak Perlman and Placido Domingo.

From Redmond, are professional ballerina Meghan Perkins, dancer Madeline Kenny (a Redmond High School sophomore), pianist Sarah Forsythe (a senior at RHS) and music teacher Judy Huehn.

Huehn will also participate in Emerald Creativity Camp, a music technology/art/movement camp for children with disabilities, happening June 23-27 and Aug. 18-22 at EBT.

Another special needs program, Exceptional Dancers, will be a series of ongoing classes at EBT, starting in September.

Connie Wible, director of Emerald Creativity Camp, has more than 30 years of experience as a musician, educator and mother of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder. Sarah Jacobsen of EBT has experience teaching therapeutic classes for mentally and physically disabled dancers in public schools and on university campuses.

Although schools and parks offer inclusive or adaptive activities for children with disabilities, the programs aren’t always attuned to unique characteristics of each diagnosis. In the case of autistic spectrum disorders, a child’s cognitive functioning, as well as comfort level in a “mainstream” program can vary considerably from one student to the next. But most have difficulties with social interaction and hyper-sensitivity to noises, smells or other stimuli.

EBT’s Emerald Creativity Camp will be tailored to such kids.

Wible explained, “We use headphones while using the digital pianos with over 1,000 sounds and music software. The atmosphere is surprisingly quiet as everyone is in their own little world, listening to sounds, recording their own sounds and songs. Then we have a share time where everyone that is ready that day can unplug and share with their small group their discoveries and compositions.”

Children on the autistic spectrum are also more emotionally vulnerable than their non-affected peers. Teachers and assistants will be trained to recognize when a camper is too frustrated to continue an activity.

Families have traveled from Redmond and elsewhere on the Eastside to Wible’s special needs camps on Mercer Island and told her “that it is the first camp their child loved, and actually stayed all five days … and then wanted to attend the next week,” said Wible.

This is the first year for a special Autism Week at both her Mercer Island Technology Camp and Emerald Creativity Camp.

“I feel it is important for that ‘middle of the road’ child who doesn’t fit in either place (at a camp for children with other disabilities or a mainstream camp),” she continued. “My son with Asperger’s, now grown, would have benefited from a small camp where he could be himself, quirks and all, and create whatever he was feeling at the time with no pressure to fit in with the regular kids, or to feel he was in with the kids with very noticeable disabilities.”

Jacobsen agreed, “Many can participate in our camps for the general population but I wanted to create a camp designed specifically for children with more intense needs. Children (here) can express themselves in three modalities — auditory, visual and kinesthetic.”

For more information about “Let Every Child Shine” or classes/programs at Emerald Ballet Theatre, call (425) 883-3405 or (206) 236-8607 or visit