GERMANTOWN – People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often perceived as antisocial or withdrawn.
This Friday, several autistic students will defy that perception when they perform on stage.
The Learning Center at Jones Lane Elementary provides academic assistance for special-needs students from throughout the county. Jones Lane sponsors an annual variety show in which students from all grades perform vocal and instrumental musical acts, martial arts routines, dance numbers, and magic acts. This year’s show, titled “Be a Jones Lane Shining Star,” with an emphasis on inclusion, will feature several Learning Center students alongside their general-education peers.
“It was the students’ idea to have an inclusion act,” said Katie Smeltz, PTA Liason to the Learning Center. “Seeing the true fondness between all these kids, whether they have autism or not, is truly heartwarming”
Smeltz’s son, Ben Goldman, nicknamed “Benzi,” is a fourth -grade Learning Center student at Jones Lane. In Friday’s show, Benzi will perform a duet of the song “Hakuna Matata” from the film “The Lion King” and serve as drummer and singer for a group performance of the Beatles song “Yellow Submarine.”
“My son feels more a part of the school now that he is performing with general-education students that respect him and want to be with him,” Smeltz said.
“I’m having fun,” Benzi said. “Being in the variety show makes me like school more.”
“I’ve always loved working with kids with autism, and I thought it would be good to do an inclusion act with them,” said Jackie Lee, a fifth grade general education student who will perform with Benzi on “Yellow Submarine.”
The variety show will be held April 15 at Kingsview Middle School at 7:00 p.m.