AllPlay Move: Dance
About the Program
At AllPlay Move: Dance, we are dedicated to enhancing access to dance for children with developmental challenges and disabilities.
Our team conducts research programs to learn about the benefits of dance for children with different challenges and develops strategies that can help to support their inclusion.
Our goal is to build confidence in the dance community and encourage more dance schools to offer inclusive programs that are meaningful and suitable for all children.
In this section, you will find information to help you navigate the process of finding an appropriate dance school for your child. You will also find resources to help your child prepare for their first dance class and progress with their peers.
Step By Step Guide
As a parent or a carer of a child with a developmental challenge or disability there are a number of things you can do to make it easier for your child to be included in a dance class. This section will take you through four simple steps:
Step #1: Find the right place to dance
Start by talking to your child about the dance style they would like to learn. Consider whether they might be more suited to the consistent routines of a style like ballet, or the more expressive focus of a creative dance class.
It is important to find a dance school that offers genuine inclusion. It may be helpful to look for one that includes a diverse range of students , so your child doesn’t feel that they are the only one needing extra support.
Many dance schools are seeking to become more inclusive and welcoming of a diverse range of students. You can refer to the AllPlay Dance Directory to help you find a dance school that promotes inclusion.
Step #2: Before the first Dance Class
Once you have found a suitable studio, it’s time to prepare for your child’s first dance class. Here are some tips to help you.
Share relevant information. Talk to the teacher about your child’s needs. Teachers may need to know medical information to ensure the wellbeing of your child and to know how to best support your child’s learning. (You can use the “AllPlay About Me” summary form available on the AllPlay website to help do this).
Identify risks: Some children may be at higher risk of injury if they participate in some activities. Ask your child’s doctor if there are any movements that need to be avoided (e.g., jumping, rolling). Tell your child’s teacher so they can adapt the dance activities as needed. Again, the AllPlay About Me summary form can be used for this
Help the teacher to get to know your child: Talk with the dance teacher about your child’s likes, dislikes, strengths and interests. The teacher can use this information to make a personal connection with your child and to develop dance activities that maximise their involvement. Schedule a time to meet the teacher which isn’t just before or after a dance class when they might not have enough time.
If you do not wish to disclose that your child has a disability, that is fine. If you notice your child is having some challenges in the dance class you can discuss this with the teacher. Focus the discussion on the particular movements he or she is finding difficult as well as noting their strengths and work out with the teacher the best ways for your child to participate fully.
Need some more tips to help you prepare for your child’s first dance class? Watch the video below.
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: As a parent you may be nervous about your child joining a dance class. This is fine and there are a few things you can do before the first lesson to help prepare your child.
To find a dance class that’s inclusive in your area visit the AllPlay Dance website and search the Inclusive Dance Directory.
Once you’ve found a class talk with the dance teacher about your child’s preferences and the way they communicate. You can use the AllPlay About Me summary form available on the AllPlay Dance website to help do this.
You can visit the dance studio with your child before the first class. This will give your child a chance to become familiar with the venue. You could watch a dance class and let your child meet the dance teacher to help prepare your child for what to expect when they attend their first lesson.
Another great way to encourage your child’s participation in dance is to try some dance steps at home. You can put on some music and dance together. Attending a dance concert or watching a dance movie are other activities you can do with your child to reinforce the fun of dancing.
If you think it would be too overwhelming or tiring for your child to attend for the whole class, you could talk the dance teacher about them joining in for part of the time.
Attending the dance class with a sibling or buddy could be another way to help your child feel more comfortable. Your child may also feel more at ease wearing their own clothes to the lesson, rather than a dance uniform such as tights and leotards.
Step #3: At the Dance Class
Participating in the dance class can be an opportunity for your child to experience some independence from you. It can build their confidence to take part in the class just with the dance teacher and their peers. Teachers may pair children with a partner or buddy to help them feel more secure.
On the other hand, your presence in the dance class watching and even supporting your child during the dance activities may be the best way to help them feel at ease and encourage their full participation.
Your child’s involvement in the dance class may be maximised if you (the parent), a sibling or aide can be in the class alongside the child offering hands on support and guidance when necessary.
Teachers may use hands-on instruction to help students learn about alignment and movement. If your child prefers not to be touched (or you prefer they are not), it is also important to make the dance teacher aware of this
Step #4: Following your child's progress
Some children may join a class for a term or a year but then begin to notice that they are not progressing at the same pace as their peers and drop out.
If you notice your child is losing motivation, talk with the teacher about ways your child can be encouraged to stay involved. Focus the discussion on the particular movements your child is finding difficult. Work out with the teacher the best ways to assist your child, through tapping into their strengths. Some movements may need to be modified to suit their movement range.
Matching your child with others who have a similar level of skill can also assist, as long as age differences aren’t highlighted. Pairing your child with a regular buddy can also help your child feel connected and stay motivated.
If your child has enjoyed attending a dance class but begins to feel isolated, you can also speak with the staff and teachers to raise awareness of this issue. Many dance teachers and dance schools are seeking to understand more about how to promote inclusion so that children of all abilities stay motivated to attend class and enjoy the benefits of dance.
We’ve put together some answers to frequently asked questions that parents and carers of children with disabilities might have about getting their child involved in dance.
Finding the right fit for your child can make a big difference to their experience. We have put together a directory of inclusive schools that welcome students with a diverse range of abilities.
Connect to the Inclusive Dance Directory
This directory was developed in 2018 to encourage greater participation in dance for all children and young people, regardless of physical, psychological or social ability.
This is the first online searchable directory of inclusive dance schools that is freely available for parents, children, dance teachers/schools, professionals and service providers seeking inclusive dance opportunities for children in Australia. The directory has been funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency. It aims to promote physical activity, well-being and inclusive practices for children aged 0-17 years.
If you run an inclusive dance school or program and wish to be added to this directory or wish to have your information updated or removed please contact us.
Although the content of this directory was prepared with due care we do not warrant or represent that the information is free from errors or omission. Whilst the information is considered to be true and correct at the time it was retrieved, changes in circumstances after the time of retrieval may impact on the accuracy of the Information.
You will find some helpful information on our website about supporting children’s wellbeing. Sometimes, simple strategies can make a big difference; other times they might need some extra support.
Many parents wonder about how best to prepare their child for their first dance class. We have a video for parents that includes tips on speaking to the teacher, familiarising your child with the studio environment, helping them prepare for what to expect during their first class, and how to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
Share with the teacher any relevant information about your child’s needs and consider using the AllPlay About Me summary to help them get to know your child. We have also developed a section just for teachers to help them understand the different challenges that children might experience and simple strategies they can use to maximise everyone’s inclusion.
Some children will perform best if they have the opportunity to participate independently just with their teacher and peers, while others will feel more secure with a buddy by their side or a sibling or parent supporting their participation. Talk to the teacher about what would work best for your child.
We have put together some tips to help you track your child’s progress and manage common challenges along the way.