One of the reasons I love working with children is because they are like a puzzle. Their strengths, weaknesses, how they learn and their motivations are some of their personality traits that I love to piece together. Children’s behavior fascinates me and discovering their uniqueness has always been a mystery that I am ready to solve.
Last year, I was blessed to meet a bright-eyed pixie-cut brunette student named Koral. On the first day of class, she ran into the studio with happy feet and as she pranced around, her bright spirit filled the room. I decided immediately to make a plan: I needed to let Koral be Koral. As I continued to teach my class, I let Koral run circles and giggle with delight while she approached her new dance friends with the occasional loving squeeze.
I knew Koral was unique and would require a different teaching approach so I reached out to her mom the next day. She immediately called me back, thinking that I was about to tell her it would not work out — but she had no idea who she was talking to! We came up with a plan and my weeks with Koral were some of the most rewarding classes of my career. Koral’s classmates were laid-back and welcoming — the perfect match for their new friend. As she’d flutter around the studio and hug them, they’d hug her back with a smile, while staying on task. After three weeks, Koral was able to repeat everything I taught and would know exactly what I was about to do next — sometimes even getting my props for me before we began an upcoming activity. Her joyous spirit, sweet nature and love for learning became what I like to call her “superpowers”. In fact, Koral’s superpowers were the bright beacon of light that finally inspired me to take the next step toward one of my long-term, professional goals.
I have always wanted to teach a dance class for children who learn differently — kids who have “superpowers” just like Koral. Individuals with Autism (ASD), Downs Syndrome and Dyspraxia have always had a special place in my heart and I have always wanted to share with them the gift of movement and creative dance. Koral became the motivation I needed to make my dream a reality and finally cross the finish line on this leg of my personal and professional journey.
This weekend, I passed the certification for Rhythm Works Integrative Dance, a rhythm and dance program designed for those with individual learning differences and other special needs. This incredible program was designed by Tricia Gomez, along with a team of behaviorists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. This certification has given me the tools I needed to take a leap of faith and start a dance class for all the “superheroes” out there that want to dance — just like everyone else.
Everybody deserves a chance to dance and I am beyond thrilled to give students of all learning abilities that option. Some of the benefits children see from creative movement and dance are improvement and development in:
- Fine motor skills
- Body awareness
- Body control
- Social Skills
- Imitation and Imagination
- Motor Planning
- Memory & Recall
- Expressive language
I recently led a workshop called “Creative Movement for the Mind & Body” to help preschool teachers use music and movement to aid in development of young children. During this workshop, I taught the teachers how the art of movement allows a child to release energy, set their imagination on fire, and let their mind and body work together. I believe with all my heart that through voice, sight, touch and sound, dance becomes a universal language. This universal language can make anyone feel joyful, extraordinary and special — despite learning differences or other special needs. Every student needs their “time to shine,” especially those little superheroes whose bright spirit flutters into our lives and creates a lifetime of inspiration.
PS: I am developing a 6- or 8-week session for students of various ages with individual learning differences and other special needs on Sunday afternoons at Burlington Dance Center, click here to see schedule and to register for A Time To Shine classes.