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WriteOut of Her Mind

by Kelly Waterhouse




Courage

The Wizard of Oz is a classic tale about a cast of characters whose journey for answers teaches them to face their fears and know that everything they need is already inside them - if they would only believe in themselves.

Still, it wasn’t until I sat in the audience and watched my daughter perform in her high school’s production of the original story that so many of the metaphors hit home for me, and I owe it all to my daughter and her profound courage to follow her own yellow brick road every day.

I am writing this column because she asked me to. I am pushing my maternal boundaries here by putting her out on the limb with me, because she insists it matters. And she’s right. These were her words: “write a story about how theatre gives kids like me a chance to fit in and make friends.” That sentence right there should make you recall how difficult it is to grow up and how important it is to feel accepted. That sentence is why arts education matters; maybe not for all, but surely for most. Connection. Community. A safe place to be your weird, wonderful self.

Not every kid needs to play sports. Deal with it.

Again, with her permission, I will share that my daughter has a learning disability and as such, is one of many students with an individual education plan. She proudly lives in the technicolour rainbow of the autism spectrum, (ASD).

While she never complains about it, her road has had challenges most kids won’t face. At home, she is just herself. Outside, she works very hard to be like everyone else. Yet, at the age of 17, my daughter has already learned the thing that Dorothy herself needed to learn. In the words of Glinda the Good Witch; “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” Amen.

Every day that my girl walks through the doors of her high school to a world where she is a small fish in a very big pond of sensory overload and teenage angst, I think she has more courage than any adult I know.

When I think she lacks empathy (an ASD challenge), I remember no one has a bigger, kinder heart. And when she works hard to pass a test, I realize she has all the brains she needs and a great capacity to dispel anyone who doubts her intellectual abilities. There is nothing fake about her. I admire her - but more, I respect her.

When the curtain goes down on a theatre production like this, amazing things happen: friendships become bonds. Cliques become obsolete. Community is created. Team work pays off. Magic happens. That is the power of arts education. That is the message my daughter wants you to know.

Everyone has a place and the right to find it.

To the cast and crew that brought the Wizard of Oz to life, I hope you all follow your own yellow brick road. Take risks. Be courageous. Have a heart. Use your brains. Believe in yourself. Throw in a song and dance number for good measure every now and again.

And wherever the storms take you, remember, “there’s no place like home.”

 

 

Vol 50 Issue 15

 
 

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