How to Start a Special Needs Dance Program
One amazing trend that’s been gaining a lot of attention in the dance community in the past few years is new programs for children with special needs. These classes, often called adaptive dance, allow kids of all ages and abilities to experience the mental and physical perks of dance class, all while having a blast with other students. If you’ve been considering starting an adaptive dance program at your studio, you may be wondering what it should entail and how to get it off the ground. Here are some tips that will help you cater to the children in your community with a special needs dance program.
The Benefits of Dance Classes
It often helps to understand just how dance classes can benefit students with special needs. Michael O’Donnell, whose 6-year-old daughter Kiera has Down’s Syndrome, explained to San Diego Family magazine that adaptive dance classes have a number of benefits for both the children and society.
“Dance allows creative expression, both individually and in a group setting, encourages exercise and promotes healthier living,” O’Donnell explained to San Diego Family magazine. “An argument can be made that dance stimulates the intellect and learning as well.”
Further, dance classes allow children to become comfortable interacting with new people. On the other side of the same coin, having an adaptive dance class will help to break down barriers between your existing students and their peers with special needs, fostering strong and inclusive relationships.
Considerations When Starting a Special Needs Dance Program
One of the most important things to consider when you start forming a new program is whether you have an experienced teacher. Expert Beacon explained that you’ll want someone who has experience working with children with special needs to teach or at least help out with the class. If you can’t find a teacher who fits the bill, consider partnering with a occupational therapist or special educator in your community. They’ll be able to help you create a class plan and run each session.
You’ll also need to think about your studio’s accessibility. If you’re on the first floor, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you have a second- or third-floor location, make sure there’s an easy way for handicapped individuals to reach you. Otherwise, you may not be able to welcome all potential students.
Finally, pick a day and time that will be convenient for your new students. Dance Advantage explained that students with special needs and their parents often strive for consistency in their schedules, so it’s important to hold classes at the same time each week. This will help minimize any problems regarding rides, work schedules and other commitments.
How to Spread the Word About Your Classes
Once you’ve figured out all the logistics, it’s time to find students for your new adaptive dance program. Dance Advantage explained that other community organizations that cater to individuals with disabilities are usually willing to help spread the word about dance classes. Reach out to your local chapter of the Special Olympics or a community center to see if they’ll help you publicize your program.
You can also reach out to local schools and employ traditional marketing strategies, like posting fliers, using ads or posting on social media. Encourage your current students to share social posts and talk to their friends about the new program. Before you know it, you’ll likely have a fresh group of dancers who are ready and eager to learn all that you have to offer.