What do you want to
be when you grow up? A stage director
What is your favorite food? Pizza with lots of tomato sauce
What is your weird talent? Making up songs
Who inspires you and why? Oompa loompas because they are funny and make people laugh.
Anyone who meets 6-year-old Finn Weiby knows about his love of performing. He’ll break into song for just about anyone, loves having his picture taken and feels right at home on stage. While these characteristics are special in any child, they’re especially unique for Finn, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2½.
His parents encourage all of Finn’s interests and talents and knew early on that they needed to find an outlet for his creative tendencies.
"He loved anything with music on TV or in movies, so that’s where we got the idea to have him join a theater group," says mom Dana Rue Weiby. "We tried first with a park district group but it was hard because they don’t have experience with special needs kids. He was taking gymnastics classes and met Orion who saw that Finn had limitations but was willing to work with him."
Orion Couling is the assistant manager, artistic director and special events coordinator for Gymkhana Gymnastics & Dance in Hanover Park, which was running a summer theater workshop at the time. The workshop ended with a performance and Dana says Finn stole the show.
"After the teen class did monologues he got up and did his own. He loves to hear clapping and to make people laugh."
Finn also participated in the center’s production of "Aladdin Junior" in the fall, also directed by Couling. Not only did Finn learn his lines and songs, he learned everyone else’s, too, (Finn started reading before age 3) and was always ready to jump in and help direct.
"The other kids were great with him," says Dana. "When he joined in with the main characters they just let him do it. The teens were seeing Orion’s reaction and they saw that it was OK."
Finn says his favorite song from the production is "Arabian Nights" and that he likes singing better than dancing. "Dancing is kind of hard," he says.
Besides acting, Finn also likes yoga, takes piano lessons, gymnastics classes and tap dance lessons (Dana says he likes to practice his tap steps in the basement). He’s also gearing up for his next performance at Gymkhana as a centaur in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" March 14 and 15. This is a more serious play for Finn and isn’t a musical, but Dana says he’s doing well with rehearsals.
"He always surprises me," she says.For more information about Gymkhana Gymnastics & Dance, including the new special needs theater program, call (630) 483-0330 or visit www.gymkhana.biz.
Do you know a great kid age 14 and under who’s done something amazing? E-mail information to firstname.lastname@example.org.