Some kids with autism might find it difficult to understand instructions. They might stand too close, talk too loudly or say things that don’t seem to fit. Here are some simple tips for dance teachers to help children with autism participate in dance.
Be consistent. Provide predictability by having a consistent class structure for each dance lesson and use a visual schedule. Identify each part of the class in the same way each lesson: For example, say, “Let’s begin with our warm-up”.
Actions can speak louder than words. Make sure the child can see your whole body as you demonstrate the dance movements. Teaching a dance step may require a number of slow repetitions. It might be helpful to video record each dance step so the child can watch it back as often as they need to.
When giving instructions use simple words. Some kids might need instructions to be repeated multiple times. Break the moves down. Teach one step at a time.
Get to know the child. Find out about their favourite things like colours, songs and dances. You can use this information to engage their attention in class and enhance the pleasure of dancing. For example, let the child chose a song they like to accompany a dance exercise, or, if a student loves the colour red, create an exercise in which they can use a red scarf or hoop.
Allow children with autism time and space to calm down. Some kids might need to take time out from the group and have more breaks to calm themselves if they get overwhelmed. Let them to do this whenever they need.
We also have AllPlay Dance Stories on this website which can help introduce your child to different dance styles and what to expect when they attend a dance class.
Remember, every child has the right to be involved in all aspects of life, especially dance. Including children with disabilities is not hard; it just requires understanding. You can make the world fit for all kids by including all kids in dance