Special needs girls express themselves through dance in Detroit program

Laurie Como, Sandy Vandermeer create My Time To Shine program

DETROIT – Today's special needs children play sports and compete on a global stage. It's a far cry from the segregation of decades ago, but there was one activity missing in metro Detroit -- dance.

"I was talking to moms in my waiting room and explaining that I thought maybe we should do a class for special needs little girls for dance," said Laurie Como. "They jumped on it and I think their eyes lit up because every mom when they have a little girl wants their daughter to dance and just shine."

Como is a language speech pathologist and Sandy Vandermeer owns Gotta Dance studios. Together they created the My Time To Shine program that teaches girls with special needs ages 3 to 12 to express themselves through dance, an achievement that may not have been possible otherwise.

"It is great for their confidence. It's great, they love it and they are, I mean, that's why it is called My Time to Shine," Como said.

My Time to Shine has grown from six dancers to 30. Classes allow the children to work at their own pace and the focus is on the dancer's ability, not disabilities. The joy is infectious.

"I will never forget being back behind the curtain and when the audience caught on to that they are different, they are unique, that you just felt the crowds rush of support and applause, that was that was amazing," said Vandermeer.

"To look at their little faces, hugs on the way in, hugs on the way out, it is wonderful," said Como. "They are just thrilled to be a part of it, a part of something."

Creating special fun for special kids, Laurie, Sandy and the participants of My Time To Shine are dancing to the beat of the heart of Detroit.

Heart of Detroit