What is cognition?

Cognition is another word for thinking or understanding. It includes skills like speed of thinking, attention, reasoning, and problem solving. Some kids might need simplified information, and they may take longer to understand, think and respond.

Children with disabilities or developmental disorders may face challenges with some types of cognitive skills. These will vary depending on the child. Children with intellectual disability will experience some challenges with how quickly they can think and their ability to understand.

Children with other developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may have strengths in some areas of their thinking skills (such as understanding visual information) and challenges in other areas (like taking additional time to process information or having difficulty concentrating for longer periods). Each child is unique and will need a tailored approach to learning.

What might be some challenges in the dance class?

  • Children may appear to do a movement incorrectly because they have not understood what they are meant to do.
  • They may become tired quickly from having to use their attention when trying to watch and copy what others are doing.
  • As new tasks are harder for them to understand or learn, they may become frustrated – it may look like they are misbehaving when what they are really showing is that they have not understood the instructions or feel frustrated because they are finding it hard.

Quick tips

  • Repeat and simplify instructions: Use simple words and repeat. Some kids might need simple instructions which may need to be repeated multiple times.
  • Use visual instructions: Visual instructions about how to do a skill might be needed. Consider using a flip chart with visual instructions when you are teaching.
  • Slow things down: Speak slowly. Move slowly. Slow down each dance move so kids have time to learn.
  • Use extra repetitions when learning skills: Some kids might just need extra practice for skills. Allow them to do more repetitions of each movement, building to short dance phrases, and then a whole routine.
  • Break down the steps: Learning dance skill might require teachers to break the moves down into smaller explicit steps to learn individually and then eventually put it all together.
  • Shorten movement tasks: Short and specific movement tasks work better than long ones.  Some kids might not be able to focus for a long time on one activity. Structure the class in short, interesting, and contrasting experiences. Movement games could be alternated between dance exercises.
  • Establish a lesson format: Set a lesson format. This will help provide structure, setting up behavioural expectations. Students often feel more secure and less anxious when they know what to expect.
  • Consider different roles: Dance movements may sometimes be difficult for some kids. Kids can do other roles (e.g. ‘Music helper’: Pressing the play or stop button or keeping the beat with clapping or a percussion instrument such as a small drum or tambourine).
  • Check child is understanding: Check for understanding by asking specific questions such as, “Tell me which direction you will move next.”
  • Encourage participation with praise and positive feedback: Be supportive of each child’s effort. Support their participation with praise and positive feedback.

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