Dancing with Developmental Disabilities
By: ASHLEY LEUNG Snow White, mad scientists, Batman, and other creatures of all sorts came out on the dance floor, jamming out to some of the biggest hits in the music industry. The lively atmosphere of the dance floor made everybody eager to dance the night away. However, there was something about this dance that separated it from other school dances. This dance was one of the many recreational programs provided by East Middlesex ARC (EMARC), a non-profit organization that provides services for those with developmental disabilities to live with others in their daily communities. Since the establishment of the organization in 1954, EMARC has provided its services to special needs citizens in 10 different cities and towns, such as North Reading, Reading, Malden, Medford, Melrose, and Revere. Some of these services include group homes, residential support, day programs for people over 20 years of age, a family help center, and many recreational programs. One of these recreational programs would be dances held at North Reading High School. The EMARC dances started in 2004, when a mother of two sons realized the differences between the opportunities her oldest son and youngest son, who had developmental disabilities, had. Seeing how her eldest son would be able to go to school dances and have typical high school experiences while her younger son could not saddened the mother. She then decided to host a dance for her second son, along with other high school students who also had developmental disabilities. Teaming up with EMARC, the dance became a success and everybody there, the guests and volunteers, had a great time. Due to the success with the first dance, they decided to host dances every year, four times a year. Starting from last year, EMARC has partnered with Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress “Advocates in Motion” to “have more fun activities.” Along with the Halloween dance, there is the Snow Ball Dance to be held on Jan. 25, 2013, the Spring Fling to be held around April or May, and the summer dance to be held in August. At first, the dances only involved Reading High School students as volunteers. Later, North Reading High School also joined, and three years ago, when Malden High School’s Helping Hands club was formed, Malden participated in the dances as well.