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WillowsEdge welcomes special artists

November 02, 2011 - By Megan Bildner

Review Intern

Imagine being filled with emotion, yet unable to express how you feel.

That is what many children with special needs face every day, according to Karen Smigelski and Ashley Bailey of the WillowsEdge counseling and art center in Lake Orion. Its official grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 12, from 1-4 p.m.

The two ladies and their colleagues use art to help children with special needs express feelings, improve fine motor skills, enhance social skills and build self-confidence.

With few resources in the area to help both special needs children and their parents, Smigelski decided to put together an art program that would be therapeutic to these children and promote parental involvement.

"The idea first came to me when I was at an art fair in Ohio that had a booth selling art made by adults with special needs," said Smigelski, a former art teacher with a Masters Degree in community and school counseling. "It was a great place; however the art center that provided these classes only did ones with adults. I was there with a friend who has a special needs child. She explained how hard it is to find activities for her daughter to participate in that she both enjoys and feels like she belongs."

Smigelski understands that trying to cope with the stress of providing the best life for a special needs child can put a strain on the entire family. Finding a place where both the children and the parents can get support at the same time is hard to find, she said.

Each class offered matches a child's unique needs and abilities. Lessons will change each week, focusing on different artistic techniques, allowing each child to participate. Cartooning and crafts will be offered on alternating weeks.

WillowsEdge will be hosting a community art show at the end of the year, where the children's artwork will be displayed. Some prints will be for sale to benefit the charity of the buyer's choice.

Ashley Bailey, a certified K-12 Art Educator will be facilitating the class. She is an Oakland University graduate, currently working as an art teacher. She has experience teaching children with special needs through Oakland University's OUCARES program.

"Working with all young artists is rewarding, but it is especially exciting to watch students grow and learn and feel pride in their accomplishments," Bailey said. "I love when students can make a connection between their art and feelings and are able to show others their abilities."

WillowsEdge concentrates on what students can do, rather than what they cannot, she said.

Classes will be held every Thursday throughout the year (except during holiday weeks) from 4:30 6 p.m. at the WillowsEdge counseling and art center, 81 Indianwood Rd. The classes are offered in packs: four classes for $44; eight classes for $80; 12 classes for $108. For those who do not want to make such a commitment, the drop-in rate is $15 per session.

Parents are encouraged to stay and join a support group guided by a licensed therapist at no additional cost. For more information please call 248-834-0614 or visit willowsedge.webs.com.

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