I had the privilege to attend a local performance of the musical Willie Wonka. The group of children and young adults were great, and while the lead performers were awesome, two of the budding thespians stood out to me. Now perhaps it's because I'm a little biased and I know their stories, but I wanted to point out how great Mrs. Gloop and Mr. Salt were.
The fact that anyone, especially a child, would get up in front of a crowd and perform, let alone sing is in itself a great feat. However, when you realize that these two are on the autism spectrum it makes things even more remarkable.
Just a few short years ago either one would have had a hard time holding a conversation with a stranger. I know because I've been fortunate to have observed them both from afar.
Res is the son of a good friend and board member of the Pervasive Parenting Center, Regina Smith. I had him in Cub Scouts, and he would talk, but that was very limited. However, on stage Sunday afternoon he not only spoke, he sang and made the acting motions; not just standing there reciting lines.
The same could be said for his co-star if you will, Alea Gonzalez. Alea has come so far, and is a wonderful self-advocate. So much so that she was recently appointed to our board of directors alongside her mom Amber.
For me, Alea stole the show. The German accent both in speaking and singing was a hit, and her comedic timing was great.
I have read before about how there are theater programs working with children on the spectrum. They can help with social skills and interaction. I have now seen this in motion and think it's a great idea.
I want to say thank you to the directors and anyone behind the scenes that helped make this possible for all the children, but especially for helping these two shine on stage.
Oh, and a special hats-off to the parents. Well done!