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“You ain’t never had a friend like me!”- Genie in Aladdin

The University of Texas at Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders, Dallas Summer Musicals (DSM), and Hear Us Now™ teamed up to present Aladdin Camp for school-aged children with hearing loss (along with their siblings). The goal of the camp was to give students with hearing loss immersion into the vibrant arts scene in Dallas and to experience how their technology could be used for more than home and school.

The camp wasn’t designed for them to watch the arts, but instead to become part of it in a meaningful way. And Disney, Fair Park (home of the Texas State Fair) and Studio Movie Grill all joined in to make the week an enormous success.

Immersing kids in both the story and behind the scenes theatrical production


The story of Aladdin is about a poor young man who discovers that labels don’t have to determine your destiny. Through an encounter with a princess and a genie he learns that resources or a lack of resources don’t determine who you are inside.

The heroine Jasmine makes her own discoveries as she pushes against the labels, she’s given and chooses her own.

Staff and volunteers from the UTD Callier Center along with the crew at the Dallas Summer Musicals and Disney created a program that not only engaged students in the story, but also included classes on costumes, theatrical technology, musical theatre, and directing.

Throughout the week, the kids were able to explore backstage and get up close to the workings of the Broadway touring show. There were also arts and crafts where kids made their own costume pieces—including jeweled cuffs like the Genie wears in the story. And Dr. Andrea Warner-Czyz not only recruited participants and volunteers, but also created a t-shirt design where all campers drew their own Genie that was transferred to their shirt.

The Cast of Aladdin joins in


On Thursday, the kids were joined by their parents for the matinee of Disney’s national touring company of Aladdin.

After the show, Arlington-native Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin), Kaenaonalani Kekoa (Jasmine), and ASL-fluent Colt Prattes (Kassim) took time to meet with the kids and answer questions before their next show.


Popular questions included:

Q: How did you change clothes so fast?

A: We have a team of people helping us.

Q: How much do you have to practice? 

A: A lot! (Prattes signed “always.”)

Q: How does the carpet fly while you are sitting on it?

A: Disney magic.

Technology at Dallas Summer Musicals presentation of Disney’s Aladdin

Technology played a big role in this event from the hearing assist systems checked out from the DSM courtesy desk enhanced with Hear Us Now™ clarity to the advanced digital receivers from the team at Dr. Linda Thibodeau’s Wireless Technology Research Lab at UT Dallas. A Hear Us Now™ receiver was connected to the Phonak Roger system that interfaced with each child’s technology for enhanced clarity. And from hearing aids, to headsets, cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing aids, all were able to hear the show.

The team from Callier worked with each student prior to the show to make sure their hearing assist devices were working well. (Often by sharing an Aladdin related “secret word” that the kids would gleefully shout out when they heard it.)

“This was an absolutely amazing week. The kids produced so much language! The environment was so stimulating, and the Disney participation added so much,” shared Linda Thibodeau, Ph.D., Professor, University of Texas at Dallas, Callier Center for Communication Disorders.

Studio Movie Grill and Disney throw in a little extra magic


Studio Movie Grill sponsored the opportunity for participants in Camp Aladdin to see the newly-released live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated picture. Seeing the movie allowed the students to make parallels with the theatrical production.


During the week, they learned to sign the song, A Whole New World, and created choreography for You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me. The final day of camp, the kids showed off their new skills to DSM employees complete with a stage bow.


Mike Richman, DSM Vice President of Marketing and Patron Services and a driving force behind the event added, “A key objective of DSM is to be involved in our community as well as serving members of our community of all ages with special needs.  We are pleased to have pioneered this effort and look forward to many similar successes in the future.”

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