While there are many theater groups, the Carmel Spectrum Players differ in one specific way: each member is on the autistic spectrum.
The group, which will have its inaugural show on November 1st, 2019, was launched by Mari Sandifer, an Indiana resident whose son, Jack, has Asperger’s syndrome, a syndrome on the autistic spectrum. According to a report this month by Wdrbd.com, Sandifer shared the anxiety and loneliness she initially felt following Jack’s diagnosis. However, she soon made it her mission to help other parents navigating the same situation, even writing a book to help them appreciate that they aren’t alone.
“I would tell them that their child is not a mistake," Sandifer said. "Their child is a gift from God and the child is created exactly how he was supposed to be."
“Raising someone like Jack that's so special and different has been a blessing," she added. "I had no idea when he was little what gifts he would give me in my life."
Sandifer said she was inspired to create the Carmel Spectrum Players through Jack’s own passion and talent for singing and performing at an early age.
Jack himself says he has never viewed Asperger’s as a burden or disadvantage, but rather as an opportunity to inspire others on the autistic spectrum.
“It's helped me want to pursue my choir life, and it's helped me want to keep taking shows wherever I can," he said. "I think it's helped me discover and unblock a whole new secret; a new way of expressing my voice and talent and performance."
Jack, who is a member of the Carmel Spectrum Players, said that he hopes the group’s performances, his own included, will help bring “awareness that autism isn't just one thing. It's a whole spectrum; it can come in many different ways."
Sandifer said the purpose of the group is to ensure that young adults on the spectrum feel loved and appreciated for their unique talents and abilities.
“I know that every person has an innate need to feel like they matter, and these kids are very special, and they have rich imaginations," Sandifer said. "They have gifts to share, and they don't always get an opportunity to shine. If we can provide an outlet and an opportunity to get on stage and to perform and to hear the applause -- that's our goal."