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AUM counseling students support new Montgomery creative space for special needs adults

Dr. Paul Hard, right, presents workshop proceeds to Rev. Rosa Lindahl.

AUM’s chapter of Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Academic & Professional Honor Society International organized two professional development workshops during the Fall 2023 semester that raised funds to support a new Montgomery arts organization serving adults with special needs.

Collaborating with AUM faculty members Paul Hard and Keith Cates, Chi Sigma Iota provided the workshops to faculty, students, and Montgomery area professional counselors at AUM in 2023. The workshops explored telemental health ethics and issues, as well as supervision ethics and establishment of a private practice.

Proceeds from both workshops have been donated to Montgomery’s new Many Colors Arts Collective, a day program for adults with a variety of disabilities such as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Downs Syndrome, and other disability types, said Hard, chair of the Department of Counselor, Leadership, and Special Education at AUM.

“Admission to the workshops was free to AUM students and faculty, as well area counselors who have provided field supervision to our students,” he said.  “Other professional counselors were charged admission with the proceeds benefiting the new Many Colors Arts Collective of Montgomery. We selected Many Colors due to the high need for such programs. Prior to the pandemic, it is estimated that 20 such programs existed in the Montgomery metro area.  Now, including Many Colors, only two such programs are known to exist.”

Created by the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Montgomery, the Many Colors Arts Collective program serves as a safe place for creative expression for adults with different ability levels by offering activities with a focus on creating art, building bonds of friendship, and learning and practicing life and work skills. Some program participants also offer their artwork for sale.

“The organization is the result of the hard work and dedication of the Reverend Rosa Lindahl along with the leadership of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church who were inspired to create  Many Colors Arts Collective to meet the great need for a day program for other abled adults in the Montgomery area,” Hard said. “For this reason, it was important for the AUM Counseling and Special Education programs to come together to help support Many Colors’ vision because it addresses a great and largely unmet need in our community.”

Since the idea for Many Colors Art Collective was established, AUM community members have been working to help ensure the program is a success. Before the program’s launch in Summer 2023, AUM Special Education faculty members Kate Simmons and Sara Bicard consulted with Rev. Lindahl to help plan the physical arrangements, safety, colors and textures for the new program.

Hard said that he is currently in discussion with the program to provide AUM student volunteers in need of field experience hours to assist with the program, which is currently run by volunteers from the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter along with local artists and professionals.

“Leadership from AUM’s Social Work and Psychology departments also have been contacted, and it appears that there will be a great pool of helpers when the program is running at full numbers,” Hard said. “Our students who assist in this effort will not only fulfill their field experience requirements, but also see firsthand the incredible difference that their skills can make in the lives of others. This work can also be life changing and vision enlarging to AUM students.”

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