Almost from the time they can talk children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is a simple way to send the message that a child should aspire to something purposeful. However, a child with special needs is rarely, if ever, asked that question. Special needs children are often met with low expectations from others and, reaching adulthood, they are unprepared to move forward in life. This is true of Kyle, a 21 year-old with cerebral palsy, who commented, “They said all I could do is work in retail – you know that means door greeter. I don’t want to do that. I was made for more than that. I just don’t know how to get there.”
Kyle became involved with I CAN! Arts & Resource Center as a volunteer, doing odd jobs around the center and participating in service projects at the local schools. “I wish there had been something like this when I was growing up – a place where I could have gotten the idea that I was capable of more at a younger age.”
I CAN! of Arkansas is not about what special needs children are, but about what they can become. This expectation is introduced to children with special needs as young as age four, and their families.
Benefits of I CAN! of Arkansas Programs
The extracurricular activities offered by I CAN! Arts & Resource Center contribute to elevated self-esteem, enhanced positive behavior, improved social competence, improved school attendance, and greater aspirations among special needs children. These programs have also served to build relationships between special needs children and their non-special needs buddies, setting an expectation with all the children that persons with special needs can exceed their perceived limitations and contribute to a group. This is punctuated by group performances, such as dance and music recitals, soccer and disc golf games, etc.
While extracurricular activities enhance an individual’s chance to experience meaningful, genuine belonging and worthwhile contribution to society, the overall health of the individual and the family is paramount.