Wairarapa College student Molly Armstrong, 13, loves to sing and dance. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

 

EMILY IRELAND

Carterton teenager Molly Armstrong loves to sing and dance.

But with an array of intellectual and physical disabilities, the 13-year-old hasn’t had the opportunity to explore her passions – until now.

Molly, an avid fan of David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and Elvis, lives with the challenges of having ADHD and autism, as well as being blind in one eye and visually impaired in the other.

It has been tough over the years for Molly to engage with mainstream recreational services because of her disabilities, but with a new performance charity, StarJam, coming to town, Molly is geared up and ready to go.

Her mother Beth has been instrumental in bringing StarJam to Wairarapa, a charity which offers children with disabilities weekly music workshops as well as performing gigs at community and private events.

“As a parent of a child with disabilities, I am keenly aware of the lack of recreational services suitable for children with a disability,” Mrs Armstrong said.

“Throughout Molly’s education, there have been several poorly made attempts to integrate her into mainstream sports and recreational activities.

“Rather than thinking of her needs, she has had to conform to the needs of a mainstream group where she feels ‘more’ disabled and a burden to the rest of the group.

“This sets her up for failure, knocks her confidence and deters her from trying again.”

Mrs Armstrong said there were many children like Molly living in Wairarapa who would “love to have the opportunity to attend a program like StarJam”.

“This will be a wonderful opportunity for our children to socialise and also encourage their many wonderful musical talents.

She said many children with disabilities had a natural talent for music and it was a well-known fact that music is a therapy in its own right.

“Molly lights up when she listens to her favourite music, she dances around the house and becomes visibly and physically more relaxed, happier and in tune with herself.

“This brings a sense of calm and regulation to her mind and body that no other type of recreational activity can provide.”

Most of all, Mrs Armstrong was looking forward to the possibility of Molly making friends with other children her age, similar to her.

“Molly doesn’t have the opportunity to make friends… she is becoming more self-aware that she is different to other people, and I think it is really starting to chip away at her confidence.

“She is more anxious, she gets pretty down about it, and she does cry about it sometimes that she wishes she had friends…That is really heart-breaking.

StarJam CEO Mary Ansell, said for some time now the organisation had recognised a “massive need” for its workshops to be rolled out to the smaller regions.

StarJam will be opening two initial weekly evening workshops in singing and dancing, each with places for twelve young children aged 6 – 25.

Each workshop has a paid tutor and 2-3 volunteers, overseen by the Wellington Regional Programmes Coordinator.

A meeting will be held for all interested parties on Thursday February 8th 6.30pm, Wairarapa Community Centre on Perry St in Masterton

StarJam was brought to the region thanks to the generosity of Trust House, The Rehabilitation Welfare Trust, The Eastern and Central Community Trust, and the John Ilott Charitable Trust.

For more information, visit www.starjam.org.