BYU-I Students gather together every week to participate in arts and crafts with their friends with special needs in an activity called HANDS.

HANDS is a student-run organization where anyone can come create crafts with friends.

Hannah Boots, a sophomore studying special child education and a co-manager of HANDS, said HANDS offers many arts and crafts activities, including making books, feathered masks and maracas.

Boots said she loves working with HANDS.

“It’s quite the stress relaxer,” Boots said. “I have an hour to get to know our friends and do some fun crafts. During this time, I don’t have to think about homework at all.”

Boots said her favorite part of HANDS is working with her friends.

“(My son) loves coming to all the activities because he is so social with everyone,” said Annette Scott, a mother of a HANDS participant. “He basically lives to come to the activities on campus.”

Rosa Clemens-Hines, an art teacher for students with special needs at Philadelphia’s Elwyn Davidson School, said art often helps children who struggle with self-confidence, social skills and verbal capabilities. These children can use art as a way to communicate and express themselves.

“While art is important for all children, it’s crucial for kids with special needs,” according to Parent Guide News. Artistic activities directly exercise and strengthen the cognitive and physical skills that generally challenge special needs children, such as oral, tactile, visual, sensory and motor skills.

HANDS is just one of the many weekly activities free to any students and friends who wish to get more involved with special-needs individuals.

Boots said the Department of Special Child Education has many activities planned for the semester.

HANDS will be creating a float for the Rexburg Fourth of July Parade, and all students are welcome to help put it together.

Boots said at the end of the semester, the department will be having an extravaganza, where special needs students can present talents and crafts created throughout the semester.

“(My son) is especially excited for his Michael Jackson dance,” Scott said.

At this Extravaganza, HANDS will be having an art show, where all of the works created throughout the semester will be showcased.

Boots said she encourages all students to come to HANDS.

“Students should come because (they) don’t have to commit,” Boots said. “As a fellow college student, I understand how crazy schedules can get. If students have a heavy workload one week they can focus on their school work and come the next week.”

HANDS is open every Wednesday in the Gordon B. Hinckley building room 271 from 7-8 p.m.