GROWNUPS

Pollye Green helps her daughter, Natalie, paint at Painting With a Twist in West Temple on Tuesday. A new group — Grownups — has been formed for young adults with special needs.

Families of adults with special needs have a difficult time finding activities for their children.

Grownups, an organization that schedules activities for the older population with special needs, was developed to provide fun activities and outings with this group of individuals in mind. Grownups is open to individuals 18 and older.

Susie Marek, a parent and one of the organizers of Grownups, was pleased with the turnout at the Painting with a Twist event in Temple last week.

In the past two weeks, when the group was announced, more than 50 family members have voiced an interest in the group.

There were 21 individuals, not including moms, dads and siblings, who showed up for the painting class.

Sherri Ayers is a teacher with the Bell County CoOp, which works in collaboration with six small school districts to offer special education for the districts’ students. She said the benefit of Grownups is that it provides young adults with special needs an opportunity to be able to socialize and participate in activities outside of home.

“If you’re under 18 there are a number of programs available, but after that the people have to find activities on their own,” Ayers said.

During the school year Best Buddies and Social Branch offers activities for young adults, Marek said.

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor maintains a Best Buddies program, in which college students are matched with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Social Branch is a social group for individuals ages 4-18 and 18-plus who have high-functioning autism. Activities are planned that offer a safe place to practice social skills. Most activities are held in Temple.

The goal of Grownups is for the participants to get comfortable with each other and develop friendships.

“We’d love to see them out and about,” Ayers said.

At Painting with a Twist, each budding artist had a place at the table where easels were set up with blank canvases.

The painting this group was going to tackle was a canvas painted to look like wood, with the letters L, V and E painted in white and a big pink heart in the upper right corner taking the place of the O.

With some instruction from Lana Blackman, the artists began painting the background first.

Shelton Jane, 27, got off to a good start and then decided the shades of brown recommended for the background needed a lift and he chose to add some pink.

Jane’s neighbor, Lauren Janke, 23, was meticulous and hyper observant in painting the background. In the end it was perfect.

The participants were told that if they wanted to change the colors they could ask for different paint.

Jane said he hadn’t painted since he was younger. He said he spends most days watching movies and TV, and he enjoys heavy metal music.

Lauren came to Painting with a Twist with her mother, Sherry Kell.

Kell said her daughter had been involved with other groups until she aged out.

“Lauren stays at home with me all day and doesn’t interact with anyone her age,” Kell said. “I want her to be able to meet people and be who she should be. I feel like she could do more than just sit at home. We live in Bartlett and there’s nothing there for her.”

This will give Lauren a chance to get out and do something different.

“Lauren’s known some of these people since she was little,” Kell said. “She likes to be creative.”

Kell felt certain her daughter would want to hang her artwork as soon as they returned home. She was right; Lauren has her sights on the living room.

Pryscelda Mendoza, 23, brought along her sister, Jacinda Medina, to help her with the painting.

The artists were told they had plenty of flexibility in how they interpreted the painting. One included a jack-o-lantern and a blue truck, while another had a barn. One artist focused on Pokeman.

The goal of Grownups is to have monthly activities. At the end of July there’s an outing to Spare Time Texas for bowling, Laser Tag and arcade games. In August, the group will see a sensory-friendly movie, “Enchanted,” at the Beltonian theater.