As a dance teacher, you have the unique opportunity to engage children of all abilities in dance. Including children with disabilities is not difficult, it just required understanding, a bit of patience and flexibility. A good teacher is an inclusive teacher!
Here are some things to keep in mind when including children with disabilities and developmental challenges in your dance program.
Firstly, your attitude matters! The degree to which you care and empathise with your students will be the degree to which they respond to you. Be aware about how you speak to parents and others about a child with a disability. Put yourself in their shoes: how would you feel about how you communicate with a child if you were their family? Make sure you don’t make anyone feel inadequate, or to blame to meet their unique needs. Consider the impact of your words.
Secondly, if you are unsure as to how to modify an activity for a child, just ask them! Simply ask, ‘how can you do this move to the best of your ability?’
Outside class time you can also talk to a child’s parents to find out the best way to communicate and work with their child. Parents can also help you understand a child’s unique strengths and areas where they could use more help. The following questions are great conversation starters: ‘what activities does your child enjoy the most?’; ‘are there any things they find particularly challenging?’; ‘are there things I can do to support his/her participation as much as possible?’
Thirdly, if a child is struggling with an activity, remember the problem is likely with the strategy and method, rather than with the child. Comments such as the following may be useful: ‘You seem to be having difficulty doing this move. Shall we try another way?’. Don’t be afraid to cater to different learning styles, such as visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.
Finally, any dance teacher knows that running a class can involve a lot of multitasking. Questions here! Corrections there! Techniques to refine and choreography to establish… There are often many individuals to consider. So don’t be afraid to get extra help! Your students may benefit from having multiple teachers, a teacher’s aide or student assistants from older age groups – sometimes carers or parents can also be helpful – after all, they know the student best. The older dance students are often willing to assist in dance classes with younger ones, and it is both a way to ‘give back’ to their dance community, and have work experience to put on their resume! Always remember to share your attention equally between students, giving children with and without disabilities, the same levels of feedback, time and expectations that can be modified where needed.
Help make the world fit for all kids by making dance inclusive.