APAC organizers Karen Medina and Katie Nault teach a new program that has captivated hearts, re-molding the possibilities for the special needs community and performing arts.
Toledo Area Parent attended a practice and performance, and watched the magic come to life as contagious smiles and bravery lit up the dance floor while bouncing to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’.
Tell me about Adaptive Performing Arts Center
Karen: “What we’re doing is giving these special needs students an opportunity to experience their own dance studio. So they’re not trying to go to a competition studio and fit in. This is their home. Dance, music lessons and theatre are also offered so that more people can be a part of it. Expression is so powerful. Everybody has ideas and visuals and it’s an amazing feeling to be able to share them.
They’re comfortable here. It’s very supportive and we all understand each other’s challenges, difficulties and obstacles. It’s not about how you can help them.
It’s about how they are going to help you. You have to be ready for that with special needs children.”
In what ways have the students helped you?
Karen: “Patience has been my greatest teacher. When I get the hugs and high-fives, that’s what makes it all worth it. When I see somebody able to do something that they couldn’t a week ago, that’s what makes it real.”
Katie: “They humble me. They are never afraid to try anything. I tell them I’m allergic to the words ‘I can’t, I won’t, and I don’t’. It’s incredible to see how far they will push. Another thing is that our students are told so often throughout the day what to do and how to do it. Here, you get to see their individual personalities emerge.”
How did you become involved with the special needs community?
Karen: “Earma Algee, of the Lucas County Developmental Disabilities office, approached me after a dance class and said ‘What do you think about doing this?’ And I said ‘Why not?’ I’ve been in the dance world for 30 years so I’ve seen a lot of sequins, glitter and mascara. And none of that makes you a better person… this does.”
Katie: “I spent more summers than I can remember working with special needs children. When I got tickets to come see Karen’s show, I was hooked. It’s not just moving to music, dance improves your life in so many ways. We’ve learned exercises that can improve reading retention and we have the opportunity to teach it to students and their caregivers.”
What’s your long-term goal?
Karen: “I want everybody who walks through this door to benefit somehow. Our passion is our technique.”
Katie: “I want to make sure that everybody here is given an opportunity to express themselves in whatever way is healthy. We encourage anyone to let us know if their child has an interest so we can come up with a way to accommodate them.”
The Adaptive Performing Arts Center is located at 151 N. Michigan Ave., Toledo. For more information or to get involved, call 419-309-1610 or