Exceptional Children Dancing: How special students gain ability and confidence through dance therapy

  • Published on
    14-Apr-2017

  • View
    213

  • Download
    1

Transcript

  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Glasgow]On: 19 December 2014, At: 17:53Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Design For Arts in EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vzae20

    Exceptional Children Dancing: How special studentsgain ability and confidence through dance therapyJeanne Schul a ba Education and Treatment Council, Inc. , Lake Charles, Louisiana, USAb Texas Woman's University , USAPublished online: 03 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: Jeanne Schul (1983) Exceptional Children Dancing: How special students gain ability and confidencethrough dance therapy, Design For Arts in Education, 84:3, 32-35, DOI: 10.1080/07320973.1983.9940839

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07320973.1983.9940839

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vzae20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/07320973.1983.9940839http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07320973.1983.9940839http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • ~~

    Exceptional Children Dancing

    How special students gain ability and confidence through dance therapy

    By JEANNE SCHUL pecial children are dancing in Louisiana schools and feeling good about them-

    selves. An effervescent group of children, some with battery packs strapped to their chests and others with hearing aids plugged into their ears, are performing dance sequences to the beat of a huge hol1o.w log drum. From a wheelchair, one child dances a solo to a song featuring her name in the lyrics. The dance therapist accompanies her and the entire class joins in.

    In five Calcasieu Parish elemen- tary schools in Louisiana, dance is helping deaf, emotionally dis- turbed, learning disabled, mental- ly retarded, and physically handi- capped children create new forms of self-expression in their class- rooms. Prior to the initiation of this project, these special children received little or no experience in the arts, especially in dance. Ex- isting educational programs did

    I

    not meet the childrens needs in the areas of creativity and self- concept development.

    Then, in January 1980, the Very Special Creative Dance Program was funded by a grant from the Louisiana State Department of Education, through the Special Services Division. The Education and Treatment Council (E.T.C.) of Lake Charles sponsored the pro- ject.

    The programs intention is to expand exceptional childrens ex- periences of success by providing a positive, growth-oriented en- vironment. Too often in the social and educational interaction of a special child, only the individuals disability is highlighted. While the program acknowledges the exist- ing conditions of the child, the goal is to build on what the child can already do well. By using such a strength-based develop- mental approach, the dance ther- apist focuses on the individuals

    DESIGN 32

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f G

    lasg

    ow]

    at 1

    7:53

    19

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f G

    lasg

    ow]

    at 1

    7:53

    19

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • along with the rest of her class- mates. The movement propelled her beyond her normal range of movement and the dance thera- pist reinforced her efforts. Later, her classroom teacher enthusias- tically reported that this had been. the first time the girl had ever acknowledged her legs in class. After the session, the girl par- ticipated more fully in all of the dance activities. Her potential for creative solutions to movement problems had expanded along with her self-image.

    A fter several sessions with the dance therapist, the children begin to become aware of their own freedom to ex- plore without the threat of failure. The children test this permission to experiment and become more secure in the knowledge that no answer or idea would be consid- ered wrong. At this point, they are ready to begin taking greater per- sonal risks.

    For instance, in a learning disabled or educably mentally retarded classroom, the dance therapist introduces the children to a new way of experiencing ac- tion words. After introduction to a new set of words, each child is asked to find his own way of ex- pressing verbs such as waving, spinning, and reaching. The dance therapist guides this ex- ploration by suggesting the chil- dren experiment with waving their elbows, their hips, or their heads. Other options might in- volve waving a body part behind, under, or over themselves. The group may be directed to wave, first quickly and then as slowly as possible. In this manner, children with learning problems enjoy the process of expanding their vocab- ularies in a setting with no right or wrong answer.

    With enthusiasm, these chil-

    dren discover new forms of self- expression. They explore new ways of sharing their own thoughts and ideas through move- ment, music, and art. Soon, they realize that who they are and what they have to say is important to an adult and that sense of ac- ceptance deepens their level of trust.

    Deaf children in a pre-school classroom are introduced to sign language for the first time in their young lives. In this setting, the dance therapist enables these two- and three-year-olds to en- hance their communication skills through enactment. Feeling words are often difficult for young deaf children to comprehend. How- ever, once the children explore a range of feelings through move- ment, emotional words become part of their vocabulary. This ex- ploration often involves each child in showing anger or hap- piness as a facial expression. It i s a non-threatening activity that seems to thoroughly delight the children. The next step invites the children to take on a body shape that expresses feelings such as sur- prise, sadness, happiness, fear,

    etc. Finally, each child incor- porates actions and gestures to communicate feelings such as fear or surprise in a simple pan- tomime.

    he dance process offers exceptional children the T chance to develop their

    creative potential. As these children dance their personal stories, they create dance im- provisations that communicate ideas and feelings that are impor- tant to them.

    For intermediate-aged hearing impaired students, pantomime and dance improvisation provide an opportunity to express com- plex personal feelings in move- ment. This group of children naturally uses gesture as a daily medium of communication. Therefore, these children often enjoy creating elaborate se- quences of dance and mime de- picting their stories. Movement sessions capitalizing on their strengths enable these students to grow in self-confidence. As the children become more secure, their improvisations reflect more

    34 DESIGN

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f G

    lasg

    ow]

    at 1

    7:53

    19

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • of each individual's personality. This process of self-exploration is an effective method of building self-esteem.

    When these children perform, unexpressed emotions are given form. Dance communication often enables individuals to depict fears and fantasies that they had not been able to identify previously. Just as in play and in dreams, movement therapy lets the child work on relevant issues at a symbolic level which is so readily available to them. As in play therapy and in dreams, the importance of the work may be recognized only at a nonverbal level and personal growth can take place at a level not accessible to verbal therapists. Children who very rarely share their feelings in class still gain significantly in the course of the dance therapy sessions.

    Of course, verbal therapy may serve as an important adjunct to movement sessions. Once the child depicts an emotional inci- dent in movement, the dance therapist can offer the individual an opportunity to verbalize his or her experience. This may come as an invitation to tell the story to the group.

    When working with emotional- ly disturbed children, the dance therapist often ends a movement session with a sharing circle. She introduces an incomplete sen- tence such as, "When moving my story today, 1. . . .,, Then, each member of the circle is given a chance to complete the sentence with his or her own thoughts and feelings. It's also important to allow children to pass if they aren't comfortable verbalizing their reactions. Often, the move- ment experience has a profound emotional impact on children, making words unnecessary. Through this process, children gain better understanding of

    themselves as they experience their emotional range at an in- creasingly conscious level.

    The exceptional children in this program have grown more confi- dent in their creative abilities. A sense of pride in their personal achievements is developing. As the children progress in the dance exercises, they seem to feel better about themselves as feeling, mov- ing, expressive human beings.

    The Very Special Creative Dance Program is only a begin- ning step in the difficult struggle to meet the many needs of handi- capped children. Classroom teachers, educational specialists, and therapists can incorporate

    many of these techniques in their sessions to create more positive, growth-oriented environments for their children. Sessions using movement offer the special child another avenue for personal ex- pression and creative exploration. Because movement is such a natural form of human expres- sion, both teacherhherapist and child have the opportunity to break from the routine and ex- plore new ideas, thoughts, and feelings in a positive manner.

    IEANNE SCHUL is a dance therapist for the Education and Treatment Council, Inc. in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She has an M.A. from Texas Woman's University.

    )ANUARY/FEBRUARY 35

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f G

    lasg

    ow]

    at 1

    7:53

    19

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14