Special Shows Bring Special People Together

Feb. 26, 2016

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Theater outings break isolation for young adults with special needs

Hattiloo Theatre founder Ekundayo Bandele knows about special needs children, in part because his daughter was one.

Now that she’s an adult, he’s seen how the theater can help his daughter and others like her with a need he had not seen when she was a child: maintaining a healthy social life.

After finishing school, his daughter became more withdrawn and isolated without the interaction with friends she had experienced as a child, Bandele says. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon with special needs children as they become young adults.

To give young people with special needs a social outlet, Hattiloo created Special Shows for Special People.

It’s an event held just for special needs adults, who share a meal, watch a show put on just for them and have an opportunity to socialize among friends.

“Special Shows for Special People starts off with a brunch, and so this is an opportunity for the young adults to break bread, to sit at a table, talk to one another and build a friendship,” says Bandele. “And then they go into the theater and then watch the play together.”

“This is hopefully a launchpad for a special needs theater. And that’s what we’re looking to launch next year — and the first year we’re going to be working on enunciation, controlling your body, controlling your emotions, so these are things that are like occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy for this demographic that oft times is overlooked and stays at home withering in their robe in front of a television or on a computer.”

BlueCross and the Memphis Grizzlies recognize Bandele and Hattiloo Theatre during a game.