This writer would like to believe that we live in a time where inclusion and accessibility is part of our normal, everyday existence. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? The reality, unfortunately, is that those who live with disability still face a lack of awareness, accessibility, and even a lack of willingness include, throughout our society.
Thankfully the dance world has been breaking some of those barriers!
(can I hear a go team go?!)
Today is specifically about the inclusive dance studio setting. Over the duration of my career there are more and more children diagnosed disabilities coming into our dance classes every year. Diagnoses have included Down’s syndrome, developmental delays, hearing impairments, ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Asperger Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy and other neurological disorders as well.
Since working with this exceptional population of dancers, colleagues have asked me what the best teaching practices are for these students.
The short answer? Adapt. Be willing to adapt both movement and expectation, if needed.
The long answer? Teaching is teaching. Whether a student lives with our without disability, regardless of physical facility of the individual, it comes down to this – we are all human whether we walk, roll, speak, or use a keyboard to speak (or whatever!). We all need encouragement and support, and we all can move within our own physical ability, therefore every-body can participate in and benefit from experiencing dance.
Teaching is a process, learning is a process.
It is key to BELIEVE that all students are able to ACHIEVE, in dance! In my opinion it is only the limits (stereotypes, assumptions, and fear) that the non-disabled world places on those with different abilities that prevents them from exploring the world of dance. The notion of modifying expectations is key; it may take longer for a differently abled student to learn a movement or to catch the subtleties in the music, but that only means that it may be a longer process. And after all, at the core of dance training is the process of learning ~ which then takes us to the performance!
Stay tuned for more posts focusing on dance and disability ~ teaching tips, teaching challenges, and more!
Many thanks to Ellie’s mom and dad for letting providing this photo of her at her dance recital. Can you tell what label Ellie has been given? Ellie has Cerebral Palsy – she uses a walker on a daily basis and her parents have a special wheel chair for her as well, there are so many challenges that they face together – and do it with tremendous grace. You can see one of Ellie’s teachers there behind her, giving her a helping hand. The best part of this photo? The smile on this child’s face – tapping alongside her dance friends, as excited as any other little girl to wear that polka dot costume and bows in her hair, dancing for her family and friends. Joy. Joy . Joy.
Looking for more information on the different diagnoses of disabilities? Have a read through our book review of Alphabet Dance – an excellent resource for teachers!