Kids take to the stage in partnership between learning clinic and children's theatre

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More than a dozen children took the stage to put on a play for family and friends.

That's not something that typically makes the news, but for this group, it was a major milestone.

Thanks to a new partnership between an autism learning clinic in Salem and the Roanoke Children's Theatre, parents are witnessing what they thought would never happen for their children.

This group of 16 students took the stage a final time before the curtain opens for family and friends to watch a version of "Where the Wild Things Are."

During a dress rehearsal, they recited lines one more time and practiced the group dance.

The partnership idea came about from parent suggestions at ABC's of Applied Behavior Analysis in Salem.

"One parent in particular said I think my son would love theater and so I said 'alright let's do it. I'm just going to call up the Roanoke Children's Theatre and see what they say,'" explained Lissa Hoprich, the owner of ABC's of Applied Behavior Analysis.

"I immediately fell in love with the idea. I just loved everything about it and working with this group of kids," said Megan Corsnitz, the education coordinator with Roanoke Children's Theatre.

The partnership started earlier this year and this fall is the third semester of mixing autistic children with peer models for theater classes.

Hoprich said the collaboration is helping her students with social and communication skills.

"The more advanced communication of having to change your tone and change your inflection and use sarcasm, those are such advanced communication pieces that they're just not used to and it's so out of their comfort level," explained Hoprich.

As the students get into character, it's might be hard to tell that just a year ago, some couldn't speak a word.

"We are so proud of the progress that all of the students have made. It's absolutely incredible," continued Hoprich.

"I think the goal for us is, for these kids, to really see theater is not unattainable for them. This is something they can absolutely do," said Corsnitz

She hopes this class grows in size, making a difference for even more little "wild things."

"It is one of those feelings you just can't describe. You get all emotional about it and it's just really amazing to see how far these kids have come and how they just shine on stage," said Corsnitz.

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