Kaden Special Message of Inclusion

Kaden Special Message of Inclusion

Hi everyone, my name is Kaden and I just turned 10 on Halloween. I know you have read my book and I hope you enjoyed it. My dream in the book is to have the opportunity to play soccer like my friends. But do you want to hear a secret? My bigger dream is to help people understand what inclusion means and how important it is. Inclusion means I can play on the same playground as any of you right along side you, not on different equipment set to the side. Variety KC has worked very hard to make our community inclusive for everyone. In my book and Maddox’s dream, you hear about different parts of our community being made inclusive with everyone in mind. As I have traveled around the country, I have learned how lucky KC is because of variety, lots of communities think they are inclusive but really they just made it possible for people like me to enter the building or playground, but they didn’t make it so we can participate. I hope you learn from these books that we are all humans and we all just want to be included. I like to say we are all different colors that are pretty on our own but when we come together, we make a beautiful rainbow. Always remember we all want to be active be social and belong.
The KC Ballet opens a new facility in Prairie Village, expanding their adaptive dance program!

The KC Ballet opens a new facility in Prairie Village, expanding their adaptive dance program!

The Variety KC team was excited to attend the Kansas City Ballet’s ribbon cutting of the state-of-the-art, $2.1M, South Campus at Meadowbrook studio. This new center has four studios and will house classes for ALL ages and ALL abilities!

With the exciting news of the new studio, the KC Ballet has plans to expand their adaptive program even more. Since the new studio will have 12,000 square feet which allows them to expand their programming to a wider range of classes for people of all ages and all skill levels.

One of the studios will be dedicated to adaptive dance, adding a complete harness system, for students with different cognitive and physical abilities. Now their adaptive dancers can move freely, all around the room!

“We’re in the business of making dreams come true for kids coming to the studio for the first time or folks coming to the studio to watch our dancers, and for folks who have special needs or adaptive needs. We will finally be able to serve them adequately, as well as give them the opportunity to dream about dance,” said KC Ballet Executive Director David Gray.

Classes for kids 2 to 19 include creative movement, pre-ballet, intermediate, and advanced, and is a comprehensive approach based on the traditions of classical ballet and prepares students for the widest spectrum of opportunities within the artistic community and professional dance world.

For each of the KC Ballet’s adaptive dance program, they each have two teachers and 1-2 assistants.

For ages 3 to 7, the class is a creative movement class that they have live, accompanied by a drummer. They begin with Brain Dance to connect the minds to our bodies and then move on to dancing around the room, learning new dance concepts, and working they fine and gross motor skills.

For ages 8 to 13, the class follows a classical ballet class structure. The students learn ballet terminology, and ballet steps at the barre and around the room.

Bolender Center Campus
Ages 3-7 10:30-11:00
Ages 3-7 11:15-11:45
Ages 8-13 12:00-12:45

South Campus at Meadowbrook
Ages 13-19 4:00-5:00
Ages 3-7 11:00-11:30
Ages 8-10 11:45-12:30

Why Dance? 5 Benefits of Dance Classes for Individuals with Disabilities from Covey.org

Freedom: Dancing gives you the opportunity to let loose and tap into your body’s natural rhythm. There’s no wrong way to dance—people of all abilities are free to move in their own way. Dancing highlights the beauty of individuality and uniqueness.

Exploration: Dance allows you to explore your own strengths and talents through movement. If communicating verbally isn’t your strong suit, dancing shows you a new way to express yourself. Dance classes open a door to gaining new skills, stepping out of comfort zones, and expressing emotions that may be subconsciously suppressed.

Socialization: When attending a dance class, participants foster a connection with one another through partner work and moral support. Dancers with disabilities can transcend verbal language and use movement as communication. Dance has the ability to express what words cannot.

Empowerment: Dance creates a newfound sense of autonomy in those with disabilities. When in a safe space, such as an adaptive dance class, dancers feel empowered to move however they’d like without judgment.

Health: Dance offers a holistic approach to physical, spiritual, and mental health. Not only does it require a great deal of physical endurance, but it’s also used as an outlet to work through emotional challenges. Dancing also helps to promote strength, coordination, and balance for people with disabilities, improving overall well-being!

Covey.org is a non-profit organization, and United Way partner agency, serving Wisconsin’s greater Fox Valley. Covey is committed to creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities and their families. Since 1954, we have used our knowledge, compassion, and caring nature to help our clients achieve their highest potential. 

Back-to-School Tips

Back-to-School Tips

Hi Variety Family!

Hopefully, everyone has enjoyed a wonderful summer filled with smiles, sunshine and lots of fun! Below are a few helpful reminders and tips to get your child’s school year off on the right track!

Relieve Back-to-School Jitters

Ask for a Preview

New beginnings bring new feelings. One way to help relieve anxiety your child may be experiencing as they transition into a new school year is to ask your child’s new teacher/building administrator if you can pop in for a quick visit to familiarize yourself with the classroom and teacher. Being able to have a quick preview and private introduction will help your child feel more comfortable in their new space. This will also give you and your child an opportunity to ask questions that may be unique to your child’s learning style.


Review Paper Work

Before the school year starts, take a moment to organize your child’s paperwork regarding IEPs, 504’s and/or Medical Plans. Double check the goals and accommodations outlined are still appropriate for your child and communicate with your child’s school if you feel changes need to be made. Also, double-check that critical accommodations are in place and can be implemented at the start of the year.

Start Routines Early

No one likes an abrupt change in routines. To ease your child (and yourself) into the school year routine, it is best to begin practicing routines 1-2 weeks before the start of the school year. Start by moving up bed/wakeup times so that your child’s internal clock can slowly adjust. Consider what time your child may be eating lunch at school and begin to offer lunch at this time. Lastly, figure out how much time it will take for you to get your child to school or on the bus in the morning. Creating a morning routine where everyone gets off to school happy and on time takes work but can help set the tone for a positive day at school.


Address Potential Challenges Ahead

The start of a new school year presents a new set of challenges for all children. One way to get ahead of things and minimize frustration is to face challenges head-on. Begin to think about your child’s school day and what potential challenges they may face, then develop a plan to either practice the skill ahead of time or look for a way to adapt the situation to fit your child’s needs. For example: What will lunchtime look like at school? Can your child practice opening and closing their lunch box so they can eat independently? Can you include Tupperware or food storage containers your child can open on their own? If eating school lunch, can you practice carrying a tray? How can you help your child select their food items from the lunch menu? Can you request your child sit with friends to increase socialization? What foods can you pack to encourage them to eat and have energy for the remainder of the day?

The school year marks a fresh start and new beginning, not only for children but for parents and caregivers as well. We hope after reading some of these tips you feel ready to take on the school year and set the tone for a great year ahead!

What is Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)

What is Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, behavioral and learning challenges, and various physical characteristics. Though FXS occurs in both genders, males are more frequently affected than females, and generally with greater severity. Life expectancy is not affected in people with FXS because there are usually no life-threatening health concerns associated with the condition.



FXS has been detected in all populations and ethnic groups. As a result, efforts have been made to determine the overall prevalence of FXS and the difference in prevalence between males and females.

There have been several studies undertaken both in the “special needs” population and the general population aimed at determining the prevalence of FXS in males and females. The agreed upon prevalence of FXS in males is approximately 1 in 7,000 and in females 1 in 11,000.

The reason there are fewer females with FXS than males is that the gene for FXS is located on the X chromosome.

  • Males (XY) — having only one X chromosome — will develop FXS because they have a mutation of their single (only) X chromosome.
  • Females (XX) — having two X chromosomes — can have the unaffected X reduce the effects of the affected X, which typically leads to no or milder symptoms of FXS. (This is an important distinction, as many females with the full mutation do not consider themselves, nor are they considered by others, to “have” FXS.)

While researchers do not have an exact number for how many Americans (males and females) could have full-mutation Fragile X syndrome, the ratios noted above suggest that the raw number of individuals could be as low as 38,000 or as high as 87,000. (Worldwide, the number could be between 777,000 and 1,400,000.) However, it’s important to note that some published papers suggest greater prevalence and some lower prevalence than the numbers cited above.


Signs & Symptoms

In Males:

Behavioral characteristics can include ADD, ADHD, autism and autistic behaviors, social anxiety, hand-biting and/or flapping, poor eye contact, sensory disorders, and increased risk for aggression.

Intellectual disabilities in FXS include a range from moderate learning disabilities to more severe intellectual disabilities. The majority of males with Fragile X syndrome demonstrate significant intellectual disability.

Physical features may include large ears, long face, soft skin, and large testicles (called “macroorchidism”) in post-pubertal males. Connective tissue problems may include ear infections, flat feet, high arched palate, double-jointed fingers, and hyper-flexible joints. No one individual will have all the features of FXS, and some features, such as a long face and macroorchidism, are more common after puberty.

Disposition: They are also very social and friendly, have excellent imitation skills, have a strong visual memory/long term memory, like to help others, are nice, thoughtful people, and have a wonderful sense of humor.


In Females:

Behavioral characteristics seen in males can also be seen in females, though females often have milder intellectual disability and a milder presentation of the syndrome’s behavioral and physical features.

Intellectual disabilities: About one-third of females with FXS have a significant intellectual disability. Others may have moderate or mild learning disabilities, emotional/mental health issues, general anxiety, and/or social anxiety.

A small percentage of females who have the full mutation of the FMR1 gene that causes FXS will have no apparent signs of the condition—intellectual, behavioral, or physical. These females are often identified only after another family member has been diagnosed.

*The information in this blog was taken from fragilex.org. Fragilex.org’s mission is to serve the entire Fragile X community to live their best lives by providing the knowledge, resources, and tools until, and even after, more effective treatments are achieved.

Family Fun: Keeping Children Safe in Warm Weather

Family Fun: Keeping Children Safe in Warm Weather

Summer temperatures in Kansas City can be a health risk with vulnerable people including disabled children being most affected by periods of warm weather.

The following tips will help you keep your family stay safe in hot weather:

Little girl having water break on the beach to avoid dehydration and heat illness

Avoid Dehydration

It is extremely important that you make sure your child is kept suitably hydrated during warm weather. Dehydration can cause significant health problems and in extreme cases even death.

All children but especially those with special needs are at risk because they may not recognize that they are overheating or becoming dehydrated or communicate to you that they are feeling unwell.

Make sure your child drinks at least every 20 minutes, water or well diluted fruit juice is best. Drinks at a moderate temperature are better than those that are ice cold. Avoid drinks with caffeine.

Try making some homemade ice-lollies if you are struggling to get your child to drink regularly.
Limit activities like physiotherapy to the cooler parts of the day.

Avoid heavy foods and include plenty of fruit and salad in your child’s diet (if you can).

Always take plenty of drinks with you when you are out and about.

If your child is tube fed, take advice from your feeding specialist on how to meet their hydration needs during warm weather.

Watch out for signs of dehydration: particularly for muscle cramps in the arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness, or sleep problems.

Sun and beach safety instruction, skin protection from summer sun vector infographics.

Sun Safety

Keep your child out of the sun as much as possible, especially when it is at its highest between 11am and 3pm. Babies under the age of 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether as their skin contains too little melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin, hair, and eyes their color and provides some protection from the sun.

If your child is in a special needs buggy or wheelchair use a parasol to keep them shaded.
Dress your child in loose fitting clothing such as cotton so sweat can evaporate. Make sure your child wears a sun hat with a wide brim or long flap at the back to protect their head and neck.

Use a high factor sun cream on the whole family – using a minimum of SPF 15 making sure it has UVA and UVB protection and is water resistant if playing in water. Apply the sun cream regularly especially if your child is in and out of water paying particular attention to shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks, and tops of feet. Always reapply after toweling down your child.

Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses!

Remember sitting in the shade or using a sun parasol or umbrella does not offer total sun protection and children can still burn if sun cream is not applied.

Little Toddler Girl Swimming in the Pool with Life Vest on a Sunny Summer Day

Keeping Cool

Many prescription medicines can reduce the tolerance of heat so you may need to take extra care to keep your child cool.

Stock up on supplies like medicine, food, and drinks so you don’t have to go out in the heat.

Keep your home cool – shutting windows when it is hotter outside than it is inside can help. Remember to open the windows later in the evening when it becomes cooler. Closing blinds and curtains in rooms that get the sun can also help.

Leaving bottles of iced water in rooms can help bring down the room temperature during the night as they defrost.

Turn off non-essential lights and electric equipment as they generate heat.

A paddling pool is a great way to keep babies and young children cool. Keep the pool in the shade and always supervise children. Or place a cool cloth on your child’s neck or sprinkle water over the face, hands, and feet.

Plan a cool bath before bedtime.

Keep nightwear and bedclothes to a minimum.

Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your child’s room – a room temperature of 61°F and 68°F is ideal.

Electric fans may provide some relief if temperatures are below 95°F. At temperatures above 95°F fans may not prevent heat related illness and may cause dehydration. Do not aim the fan directly on the body.

Remember to keep an eye on the weather forecast so you can plan ahead!

Child in wheelchair having fun outside

Here are 10 Fun Ways Your Child with Special Needs Can Stay Cool This Summer from Friendshipcircle.org:

We’re feeling’ hot, hot, hot! Summertime is in full swing and keeping cool is a must. Here are 10 sensory friendly ways you can spend time with your child while keeping cool this summer:

1. Water Balloon Toss
Poke some holes in a water balloon so that the water slowly sprays out and there is no fear of covering ears at the POP of a balloon! Toss the balloons back and forth with a friend or get a group together to pass the balloons around a circle.

2. Indoor Picnic
If you need an escape from the heat or the bugs outside, create an indoor picnic complete with blankets, pillows, and some fun snacks. For added sensory stimulation and authenticity, hang streamers from the ceiling to pretend like the picnic is under a willow tree.

3. Toys ‘N Suds
Gather small plastic toys like cars, trains, and blocks to give them a good scrub outside with soap and water. The soapy water could be repurposed for slip ‘n slide fun too!

4. Calming Cool Down
Close the windows and blinds and turn down the air conditioning. Set up a fort in the living room and enjoy the refreshing “breeze” inside, away from the noise and distractions of the outdoors. Stick some glow in the dark stars onto your ceiling, turn off the lights, lie back and enjoy a starry sky anytime of the day. This cool down activity can stimulate calm for the whole family.

5. Water Painting
Get out the paint brushes and cups of water to paint your hot sidewalks and driveways with nothing but water! Use the paint brushes to cool down with a stroke of water down arms and legs for extra sensory fun.

6. Ice Cube Melting
Give kids an ice cube and see how long they can hold it in their hand while it melts. Instead of hands, place ice cubes in the crook of an arm or behind knees. As the ice melts, it will cool off arms and legs. Freeze little prizes inside the ice cubes for a reward after the ice cube has melted.

7. Summer Sun Ice Cream
Yes! Make ice cream outside during the summer. Check out this awesome recipe for shake-and-make ice cream. If ice cream isn’t your style, put juice boxes in the freezer for a slushy treat. Shaken or squeezed, the creation will provide fun tactile input followed by a treat!

8. Sprinklers
Swimsuits on (and maybe goggles and water shoes too!) for a cooling run around the sprinklers. There is a plethora of sprinklers to choose, from crazy sprayers or gentle misters it’s just finding the right one for you.

9. Ice Necklaces
Ice necklaces and bracelets and anklets, oh my! Check out the simple-to-follow instructions for a neat way to stay cool. Melting jewelry on pulse points like the neck, wrists or ankles help bring body temperature down and provide heat relief. Wearing the “cool-elry” on top of socks and shirts is ok too!

10. Backyard Fun
When the sun sets and the day has cooled down, set up a reading area outside- blankets, hammock, porch swing. Stare at the stars with your little one, reading stories by the moonlight or bring a flashlight too. Summer is all about fun and family! Spend this summer with the one’s you love creating, playing, and having fun while using these ideas to stay cool.

Accessibility at Starlight

Accessibility at Starlight

Variety KC loves our friends at Starlight and have loved partnering with them on many projects over the years. Not only is Starlight an amazingly beautiful venue, but did you know how accessible it was as well? We asked Starlight to share a bit about what makes Starlight so accessible. Here’s what they had to say!


Starlight Strives to Make Theatre Accessible to All

Starlight wants to make sure as many people as possible can experience the magic of a night under the stars at a Broadway show or a concert.

A partnership with Variety KC resulted in ADA parking signage. These innovative parking signs feature pictures of Variety KC kids as a reminder to keep disabled parking spots open for those who need them.

This project brought improved communication services to Starlight, including communication boards installed at Guest Information Kiosks, as well as communication boards and sign language boards that patrons can check out for free on performance nights. Patrons in need of noise-canceling headsets, weighted blankets and fidget toys are able to check out Variety KC sensory kits during events. The Variety KC partnership also included the installation of universal changing tables in Starlight restrooms.

In 2021, The City of Kansas City, Mo., Piper Wind Architects, Turner Construction Company, and the Starlight operations department made some Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements throughout the facility.

Improvements included:

  • Numerous walkways leveled throughout the venue
  • Increased number of ADA and ADA companion seats
  • Elevation of outer Terrace sections to improve sight lines
  • New, accessible signage throughout the venue

The project also included upgrades to the front of house theatre with an accessibility lift option for production staff and moved the video booth to be centered within the venue.

Starlight strives to be as inclusive as possible and continuously evaluates patrons’ needs, so all visitors may have a positive and memorable experience.

For information about all the ways Starlight works to ensure the venue, events, and services are available to all guests, visit the accessibility page on Starlight’s website.