For children with special needs such as sensory processing
disorder, autism, or other socio-emotional or physical difficulties, enjoyable
activities might be few and far between.
Children with these needs might have a list of symptoms, including poor
attention, difficulty interacting with peers, limited body awareness, or
trouble being in social situations that might be over stimulating. Expression through dance or
participating in group movement are activities for special needs children that
can help improve these difficulties and put children with special needs on the
level of their neurotypical peers.
How does dance help with children with special needs? From just a physical point of view,
movement and dance help with body
awareness, which refers to knowing and understanding parts of your body and
how they function. For example,
children with sensory processing disorder or other similar difficulties might
not understand where their bodies are in space or how to work their muscles in
their fingers for fine motor control to pick up an object. Children with these difficulties might
look clumsy and stumble around, or they might have trouble buttoning a sweater
or picking up something on the ground.
When we dance, we need to be aware of the space around us,
align our bodies, or follow particular movement patterns, which involve gross
and fine motor control. When children
with special needs are taught dance, they are practicing these skills. While most of these activities for
special needs children do not suggest a right or wrong way to do things, dance
allows children to explore the space and their bodies, and through direction
from instructors, will be able to practice and improve their movements. Through regular and organized dance,
children with special needs will be asked to replicate particular body
Another way dance activities for special needs children help
is through promoting social interaction. Many of these classes are groups, and
children are placed with their peers.
They might have to do large group dances or partner dances, which
requires children with special needs to place trust in their peers. They might also be required to give
some eye contact or appropriately touch a peer, which can be difficult tasks
for some children with special needs.
These activities for special needs children also help give them confidence. Children in these dance programs often give recitals, so
they perform in front of parents and the community. Even in each class, they are performing in front of each
other, which strengthens that peer bond and motivates them to improve.
Dance is not just a physical activity, but also it is a form
of creative expression. Some children with special needs have
great difficulty expressing themselves or understanding emotions. Dance gives children a chance to break
out of their shells and express emotions in a non-threatening and
Dancing activities for special needs children can be stimulating or
calming and relaxing. You can
re-enact situations through dance or just practice moving to a beat. Children with special needs might be
instructed to try to move their bodies in new and interesting ways they might
not have thought of before.
Activities for special needs children are available for all
abilities; dance is not just limited to children with sensory processing
disorder or autism. Think about
what the structure can do for kids with ADHD, or what special instruction can
do for children with physical difficulties such as prosthetic limbs or cerebral
palsy. When looking into programs,
consider instructors who have experience with special needs or have special
classes dedicated to a particular special needs population. If no special class is available, talk
to instructors about modifications they can make for your child so he can get
the best benefit from dance.