After completing my studies about the genetics of Down syndrome during my Independent Research and Design (IRaD) project, I began to connect my newly acquired scientific knowledge to dance. After dancing for many years, I really wanted to find a way to most effectively use my experience to teach people of all abilities. With CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art) in mind, I started to learn about the effects of dance therapy.
Dance is one of the many forms of therapies for Down’s syndrome. The Creative Arts Therapies Research Center believes that the body and mind are an interrelated continuum; “through the vehicle of movement and dance, the client can creatively explore and enhance emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration.” Many of the symptoms of Down’s syndrome involve the senses or fine motor skills, such as slanted eyes, low muscle tone, and cognitive development handicaps7. Dance gives people with Down’s syndrome a different way of expression and communication— other than normal conversation which is often hard for those with Down’s syndrome.
I have learned from my interactions with therapists over the past few months some important points to remember while teaching a dance to people with special needs in order to make it the most effective. I was taught that it is very important when teaching people with special needs to not cross the midline of the body. This is an imaginary line that creates some sort of symmetry in the body and crosses right down the middle of the front and back of the body. It is also important to make sure that both feet are on the ground during all parts of the dance because, similar to the problem with the midline, balance can become a distracting and frustrating problem for some people with special needs10.
After gaining an understanding of how dance therapy works and what makes it effective, I was able to put my new knowledge into action! Next week, I will share my experiences teaching children with special needs a dance routine. Please stay posted!
Dance, move, and empower,