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Musical With A Message:
Litzsinger students perform show that promotes autism awareness

Students at Litzsinger School recently harnessed the power of music to teach their peers and the community about students with autism.

Litzsinger was one of four schools in St. Louis County chosen to partner with Stages St. Louis and VSA Missouri on a performance of “No Such Thing As Normal,” an educational musical about autism. Litzsinger’s production on May 8 marked the first time the musical was performed by an entirely special education population.

“No Such Thing As Normal” was originally created by VSA Missouri, a statewide organization promoting access to the arts for people with disabilities. The show’s plot focuses on a group of students on a school field trip to the National History Museum and their reactions to Josh, a fellow student who has autism.

The songs, lyrics and dialogue intertwine facts about autism throughout the musical. In the production, Josh is never seen on stage. He is always moving ahead of the rest of the students to the next exhibit.

Litzsinger’s cast featured students with singing and speaking parts, and students also helped create props for the performance.

Rob Grumich, director of education and outreach for Stages and Katie Hayes, one of the organization’s teaching artists, worked with the Litzsinger cast weekly for several months. Cast members learned about acting, being on stage and taking on the roles of creatures like dinosaurs and fish that appear throughout the show.

“They’ve developed a great rapport with the kids,” said Litzsinger music teacher Paula Berner, who also rehearsed with students during class time. “I’m seeing things that I didn’t know that these kids could do.”

The collaboration with Stages has resulted in one of Berner’s students getting the opportunity to take private voice lessons through Stages’ Access the Arts program.

“It’s a great connection to have,” Berner said. “This show is a great way to reach the community about what autism is and I think it’s such a positive message to send to everyone that really, none of us are normal.”

Barbara Behlmann

Litzsinger students work with Katie Hayes, a teaching artist with Stages St. Louis, to rehearse their parts as dinosaurs in the musical “No Such Thing As Normal.”
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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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