Party Art holds first adaptive art class for people with special needs

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – Party Art, a local special events studio, partnered with the UAB Department of Occupational Therapy to hold an adaptive art class on Saturday, Feb. 22, that is specifically focused toward people with special needs.

Abbey Thompson, owner of Party Art, became a community partner with the department which allowed her to have seven students work with the studio on a project designed to benefit people with special needs and disabilities.

“Adaptive Art is where you take a typical art class or project, whether it be for kids or adults with any kind of disability and you adapt the class or project to meet their disability or needs,” explained Lauren Cutting, one of the O.T. students.  “So today we have the special paint brushes for people with motor issues or the inability to grasp a small pencil. These tools help them hold the brush in their hands. It’s not really trying to change the participation in the project, it’s using specialized tools to adapt the project to their needs.”

“We also took a look at the environment to make sure we had the appropriate chairs and tables and setups, so that everyone felt included in this space,” explained Joli Twa, another O.T. student.

“We are making Mardi Gras masks today, the participants are going to have the option of painting or attaching different materials,” Thompson explained. “We have everything from pom poms to rhinestones and feathers and glitter, we have lots of glitter. There are lots of beads so it’s going to be a lot of fun and we were really excited for it.”

Thompson really wanted to make the class accessible for as many people as possible and ended up welcoming 15 people ranging from young children to a few participants in their 60’s.

The participants were very excited for it as well. Many of them were laughing and smiling as they showed off their creations to their parents, loved ones and the helpers. They all added some specific flair to make the masks their own. The special tools provided really added to the experience and gave many people the opportunity to be creative without being inhibited.

“This has been a dream of mine for several years,” Thompson explained. “These students came into my life at the perfect time to make this happen.”

Thompson believes these activities are very important for the community and hopes to be able to host more classes in the future by partnering with UAB.

“It’s definitely something that is needed and requested by people in the community. We’ve worked with the Exceptional Foundation and the Arc of Shelby County most recently so we’ve already had other opportunities to help people with special needs and disabilities,” she explained.  “We love it. And we would love to be able to offer this in the future, because it’s not something that’s available right now.”

The Occupational Therapy students that helped with the adaptive art project were Joli Twa, Veta Karam, Alexandra Reynolds, Lisha Mortensen, K.K. Buck, Lauren Cutting and Emma-Claire Garrard.