Amanda Cathey is Executive Director, and one of the choreographers, event planners, advocates, and pretty much everything behind Halo Dance 4 Autism!
Amanda originally became involved with Halo when Cami Marseilles, the Founder of Halo 4 Autism, asked her to perform at the 2012 Annual Halo Show. At the time Amanda was a choreographer for the Dance Summer Camp Orchesis, as was Cami, and the two immediately hit it off. Amanda laughs and admits that her piece that year was a definite learning experience for Halo Shows as the giant walls she brought for her piece are the reason we no longer allow props in our shows.
After performing in and witnessing the 2012 show, Amanda fell absolutely in love with the cause and felt called to become more involved. Her position quickly grew from volunteer to staff member to managing and planning every component that Halo has to offer - including financial, knowledgeable, and emotional support for our ASD community.
Soon after taking on a leadership role within Halo, Amanda's own two children were diagnosed with Autism. She says that this prior experience with Halo was extremely providential, because without it she does not think she would have been as prepared to advocate for her own children as much as she has had to.
And advocate she does - every single night and day. When not working as a full time dance coach, choreographer and Mom, or working on Halo, Amanda uses her time to advocate for not only her children but all of the Special Needs children of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District. This past year she was elected to be Chairwoman of the District Special Education Para Advisory Committee, a group of five motivated parents that regularly meet with the district school board to help special needs kids in all schools, mainly by letting parents know what resources are available for their children.
Amanda says that this is a huge crux in our system that she is working (tirelessly!) to fix - that until you have a child with Special Needs, resources are not made readily available to you, and even when you search for them, they are extremely difficult to find and access.
It is fitting that Halo Dance 4 Autism's theme of 2021 events is Inclusion, because Amanda says that next year she is taking on the role of PTA President at her children's school. This unfortunately is due a few experiences where her first grade twins have been excluded. But Amanda bravely says that this is the only way to fix it - for parents to get themselves involved on every single campus and make sure their children have an advocate who truly cares. Even when you're tired, a full time working parent, and overwhelmed, you have to push through for the sake of your child.
Amanda says that while she loves her children's school and they have made wonderful improvements, exclusion seeps into the other areas of her family's life as well. Friends, and even extended family members have had a change in heart in the way they treat Amanda and children, which she says she knows is an unfortunate but common experience of families with children who have Autism.
On the other side of this, however, is the Halo has created for her and that she works tirelessly to create for other families like her own. Halo has fostered connections far more meaningful and supportive for her than the ones lost, giving Amanda the energy she needs to continue pushing through daily obstacles.
Both Amanda and Cami's hope for the future of Halo is exactly this - to continue creating an extremely strong knowledge base and support system for families with children who have Autism - one that is easily accessible and easy to understand. Amanda's goal is to have Halo Dance 4 Autism travel and host speaking engagements, so she can continue to fight for and support every parent like herself who has had a strenuous time dealing with the lack of available knowledge, accessible resources, and even friend groups that having children with Autism encompasses.