Anthony Sigall, a second-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary School, has an autistic spectrum disorder and looks forward to Saturday mornings when he studies piano with Connie Wible.
“Miss Connie teaches me piano all the time and I like her because she loves me a lot,” Anthony said, during a visit to his Redmond Ridge home.
His mom Beth explained, “She understands his learning style — how to present material in a way to engage him.”
Wible will direct this summer’s Emerald Creativity Camp at Emerald Ballet Theatre in Bellevue. A benefit to raise money for this special needs camp and for ongoing Exceptional Dancers classes will take place Saturday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m. (See related story on page 6.)
Anthony is bright, but needs adult assistance to help him stay on task and help him manage his emotions. And like most people with autism, he thrives on familiar routines.
“Knowing what’s happening — and when — is one small way for them to have a sense of control,” Beth explained. “Not telling them what to expect is a little like telling a normal person, ‘In five minutes, I’m going to cut off your oxygen.’ “
Although awareness of autism is growing, there still are misunderstandings and confusion because people with the disorder usually don’t look any different than anyone else. Their quirky behavior is what tends to stand out.
For example, Anthony is fascinated with architecture, to the point that he loves touring model homes and memorizing their features. He also likes traffic lights a lot. But that’s not the sort of topic that pops up in everyday “small talk” with your friends and neighbors.
His mom sought piano training for Anthony after he played with a light-up keyboard and showed her how he figured out that musical notes were a physical representation of each sound. Now he is excited about something that is universally popular.
“I want him to have fun with music lessons,” Beth emphasized, “but I also want him to really learn to read and play music. This competence can be a social entry point for him. He can share this interest with other people who enjoy music, too.”
She’s also grateful that Rosa Parks includes drama in every student’s curriculum and has a special needs drama class on Friday afternoons, which Anthony adores. You’d think kids with disabilities would be shy onstage, but the drama experience actually bolsters their confidence, said Beth.
For more information about the special needs arts programs at Emerald Ballet Theatre, call (425) 883-3405 or (206) 236-8607 or visit www.emeraldballet.org.