Special needs children dance in Austin, Texas thanks to the efforts of a caring and innovative teacher named Nancy Bain. Ms. Nancy, as the girls call her, has a master of arts in dance education and many years experience teaching dance to all levels. About two years ago, she began teaching a series of classes for special needs children. She faced a host of problems in getting it started, including finding a location to hold the classes, setting a time that would work for enough of the families, and getting high school students to volunteer as mentors. She persevered and the children have benefitted greatly. Recently, her program became part of the BODY SHIFT movement program for adults with mixed abilities, sponsored by VSA Texas and Forklift Danceworks. Here is a link with more information on VSA Texas and her class: http://www.vsatx.org/bodyShift.html#BSKids.
As parents and caregivers of special needs children, we all know how difficult it is to find after school activities our children can participate in. We also know the therapeutic value of many of these activities, including dance. Dancing is an excellent way to improve gross and fine motor skills. It teaches balance and motor planning. The music helps the child regulate his or her actions for greater success and more permanent improvement. The movements of dance can also calm and structure the child’s emotions, making them more able to cope with the many stresses of their lives.
In addition, for a child with autism, like my daughter, dance can be extremely useful in teaching the fundamental learning skill of imitation. Imitation, for whatever reason, seems not to be natural for children with autism. Many of them find it hard to look at another person directly, but are willing to look at another person in a mirror. Thanks to the music and movement of Ms. Nancy’s class and the mirrors in the dance room, she has improved her ability to imitate others. That is an essential skill in learning and I was very pleased at a recital last night to see how well Deborah was doing watching and imitating Ms. Nancy.
Unfortunately, most teachers are unable to modify their classes enough to make them successful for special needs children. Ms. Nancy constantly works to find the right music and dance techniques for her unique students. Her dedication to reaching every student in her class is obvious to any observer. As a result, special needs children dance in Austin, Texas, some for the first time in their lives. Way to go, Nancy!
© 2013, Margaret. All rights reserved.