Find out about what parents can do to include kids of all abilities in the dance community. Here you’ll find some tips for all parents, regardless of whether their child has a developmental challenge or disability, to include everyone in dance.
As a parent of a child with a developmental challenge or disability there a number of steps you can take to make it easier for your child to be included in a dance class.
Find a dance class that suits your child: You know your child best so you can talk with them about the dance style they would like to learn. Consider whether they might be more suited to the consistent routines of a style like ballet, or the more expressive focus of a creative dance class. (AllPlay Dance Stories on this website which can help introduce your child to different styles of dance and what to expect when they attend a dance class.)
Talk with the teacher: Share relevant information about your child’s needs with his or her dance teacher. Teachers may need to know medical information to ensure the well-being of your child and to know how to best support your child’s learning. (You can use the “AllPlay About Me” summary form available on the AllPlay website to help do this).
Identify risks: Some children may be at higher risk of injury if they participate in some activities. Ask your child’s doctor if there are any movements that need to be avoided (e.g., jumping, rolling). Tell your child’s teacher so they can adapt the dance activities as needed. Again, the AllPlay About Me summary form can be used for this.
Help the teacher to get to know your child. Talk with the dance teacher about your child’s likes, dislikes, strengths and interests. The teacher can use this information to make a personal connection with your child and to develop dance activities that maximise their involvement. Schedule a time to meet the teacher which isn’t just before or after a dance class when they might not have enough time.
If you do not wish to disclose that your child has a disability, this is fine. If you notice your child is having some challenges in the dance class you can discuss this with the teacher. Focus the discussion on the particular movements he or she is finding difficult as well as noting their strengths and work out with the teacher the best ways for your child to participate fully.
Our parent handout busts some of the myths around dance, sport and kids with disabilities.
The AllPlay About Me Medical Summary can be jointly completed by parents and doctors and provided to dance teachers. This will allow the teacher to understand how to best support your child and any adaptations that might be needed to create a safe environment for all kids in the dance class.
Participating in the dance class can be an opportunity for your child to experience some independence from you. It can build their confidence to take part in the class just with the dance teacher and their peers. Teachers may pair children with a partner or buddy to help them feel more secure.
On the other hand, your presence in the dance class watching and even supporting your child during the dance activities may be the best way to help them feel at ease and encourage their full participation.
Your child’s involvement in the dance class may be maximised if you (the parent), a sibling or aide can be in the class alongside the child offering hands on support and guidance when necessary.
Teachers may use hands-on instruction to help students learn about alignment and movement. If your child prefers not to be touched (or you prefer they are not), it is also important to make the dance teacher aware of this.
it became a difficult thing for her because she soon found that she wasn't keeping up and she wasn't progressing like the other kids… she actually came to me and said mum I don't want to do this anymore.
-Parent of a child with a disability
Some children may join a class for a term or a year but then begin to notice that are not progressing at the same pace as their peers and drop out.
If you notice your child is losing motivation, talk with the teacher about ways your child can be encourage to stay involved. Focus the discussion on the particular movements your child is finding difficult. Work out with the teacher the best ways to assist your child, through tapping into their strengths. Some movements may need to be modified to suit their movement range.
Matching your child with others who have a similar level of skill can also assist, as long as age differences aren’t highlighted. Pairing your child with a regular buddy can also help your child feel connected and stay motivated.
I think what made it difficult is… as she got older she realised she was the only one getting help… when peers are mastering things, progressing and getting better and they're not getting noticeably better; that's challenging when they're the only one with a challenge in the class. Having more children that need assistance would have been good. Because then she would have seen that she wasn't the only one and not feel isolated.
-Parent of a child with a disability
Finding a dance school that includes a diverse range of students may also be important, so you child doesn’t feel that they are the only one needing extra help. Many dance schools are seeking to become more inclusive and welcoming of a diverse range of students. You can refer to the AllPlay Dance Directory to help you find a dance school that promotes inclusion.
If your child has enjoyed attending a dance class but begins to feel isolated, you can also speak with the staff and teachers to raise awareness of this issue. Many dance teachers and dance schools are seeking to understand more about how to promote inclusion so that children of all abilities stay motivated to attend class and enjoying the benefits of dance.