As the founder of The Miracle Project, a renowned autism-focused motivational speaker and the subject of the HBO documentary Autism: The Musical, Elaine Hall has a lifetime of accomplishments. Yet 15 years ago, Elaine would have never thought her goals and priorities in life would center around autism and ways to improve the lives of autistic children nationwide.
"I was working as a Hollywood acting coach - specifically with child actors. I knew I wanted a child of my own and adopted my son Neal from Russia when he was 22 months old. By the time he was three, I noticed he wasn't talking and had a continuous tendency to spin around and around in circles." Neal was soon after diagnosed with autism.
With her son's diagnosis in-hand, Elaine turned to her background in theater and the arts - and her rolodex of experts and coaches - to create different therapies tailored to Neal's individual needs. "Autism wasn't nearly as significant a health topic when Neal was first diagnosed. Research on autism services was not readily accessible. So I turned to listening and play to better understand Neal and join him in his own world."
Elaine created her life's work around developing interactive therapies for Neal - which she later used as the foundation of The Miracle Project, a theater arts program for children with autism. Founded in 2004, The Miracle Project empowers children with autism by encouraging acceptance and artistic expression. "Every child has talent and every child has a gift. Through our creative workshops and artistic programs, we hope to foster nurturing environments that celebrate the unique, and often unrecognized talents of every child we work with."
The Miracle Project works with schools across the country to implement workshops focused on acting, singing and dancing to encourage socialization and play. "We strive for our classes to have children of all abilities and at the end of our programs we put on live performances so all of the participants can share the spotlight on stage. We also invite any and all siblings to participate as well so that everyone is part of the program."
Currently The Miracle Project runs after school programs in two Los Angeles-based locations and two locations in New York. "We couldn't be more thrilled that more than 300 cities and towns have requested a Miracle Project program to help their families with autism - and we're hoping to expand to meet the profound need for this program."
"My life has become so much richer and fuller by experiencing the world through my son with severe autism. My goal is to enrich everyone's life, the way mine is, by expanding this program to schools everywhere. We hope to change the way the world perceives autism - all kids have a voice and we need to start listening."
The impact of The Miracle Project has not gone unnoticed, having been documented in the HBO and Emmy Award winning film "Autism: The Musical," however, it's the personal stories and accomplishments that have touched Elaine the most. "I've worked with kids that were previously nonverbal, and witnessed some of their first words. We worked with a young lady who rarely spoke, yet loved to sing. By the end of the program, she was featured in the mainstream choir."
"The Miracle Project is not just a support group where kids gather to talk about their problems. It's a place where people come together to make friends, real friends. And for that, my motto is, and always will be, ‘It takes a child with a disability to raise the consciousness of a village. A community can be transformed by just one child.'"
This year, CVS Caremark is excited to partner with the Miracle Project through our All Kids Can program to implement workshops in schools in San Diego and San Jose. On April 26, The Miracle Project and All Kids Can hosted a training session at the Pioneer Day School in San Diego. Free and open to the public, the session was a great success and taught the core principles of The Miracle Project and how to use creativity and the arts to bring out the best in children of all abilities.
If you're in the San Jose area on May 10, The Miracle Project and All Kids Can will be offering the same session at the Campbell Community Center, located at 1 West Campbell Ave from 4:00-7:00 p.m. We encourage you to stop by to learn about how The Miracle Project's artistic programs can connect children with autism through theater, music and dance.