Special Needs Dance Classes

Working More Effectively with Students Who Have Learning Differences and Special Needs By Erin Pride

Written by
Erin Pride
Thursday 3, 2020

Working More Effectively with Students Who Have Learning Differences and Special Needs 

With Erin Pride

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of interviewing the fabulous Tricia Gomez on the Dance Boss Podcast episode. She is the creator of Hip Hop in a Box and global director of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance where she is working more effectively with students who have learning differences and special needs. 

I think it is crucial for us as dance educators and entrepreneurs to learn, adjust, and develop our teachings to the variety of learning styles, students with special needs, and those who require more assistance. 

Dance is and should be an art form that is accessible to types of bodies, differently-abled as well as with special needs. 

This Dance Boss Podcast episode blew my mind as Tricia provided some amazing information to help work more effectively with these students and I just had to share them with you today.

In this post, I dive into the amazing advice and work that Tricia demonstrates with Rythm Works, and how you can provide the best possible dance education for students with special needs.

Let’s dive in.

The best place to start, like anything else, is proper education. 

Education is the best remedy for anything you don’t understand or fully grasp. As educators, the deepest irony I find is that we are always learning. And thus, when taking on a variety of students with different learning abilities (which is basically everyone anyway) we must educate ourselves so we can provide them with the best dance education possible.

So what does this mean?

  • Research/reading
  • Reaching out to other dance educators in groups or memberships
  • Taking a course/class
  • Taking on a mentor or shadowing other educators
  • Depending on where you want to go with it, getting a higher education/diploma in this particular area

It is key that we, as educators must know and understand our student’s needs in order to help facilitate the best education for our students.

Learn the different learning styles, then ask your students/their parents about their style, as well as learn how to identify them. Get educated on how to work with and serve students with special needs, as well as different-abled bodies. 

Looking at it from that aspect of, "What can I do as a teacher, as an artist of teaching?" And figuring out what that kid needs. That's where all the warm, and gooey, and fun stuff comes in teaching.  

And then, when you finally breakthrough, you can teach some awesome choreography. Anybody can teach awesome choreography, but not everybody can teach. 

Which leads me to my next point.

Assessment of the student.

Assessing what the student’s therapeutic goals are, educational goals, or personal goals when starting or continue their dance education journey. So can help give you some framework, to work in, but it's specific to each person.

This means that instead of putting an umbrella of information or teaching method/technique over your students, you can provide a more targeted, individualized approach based on where the student is at. 

Alternatively, making assessments during the class based on a particular behavior in order to give the student the most effective dance education experience is also important.

There are times that many or all students have moments of distraction or “acting out” particularly in younger students, but this can also occur with students with different learning styles as well as with special needs. But this isn’t inherently a “bad” thing but rather a way of communication from the student that an adjustment from the educator may be needed.

Something to consider is to step back and understand that behavior is communication and that behavior serves a function. So they're either trying to get something or they're trying to get out of something. That getting something could be attention, sure, or it could be a sensory need.

An example:

Maybe they need some vestibular sense and they're running around to give themselves that sense. Or maybe they're trying to avoid something like the sound of a song, or maybe the person standing next to them is too close and they're afraid of being touched.

There are always so many reasons why behavior happens. So instead of just jumping to the conclusions of the behavior, do your best to figure out what's going on with {student’s name} Why is he/she doing this behavior?

From there you can come from a place of compassion for your students and find a solution to help them get the most out of their dance class.

And in the process of educating yourself on these new developments, something to remember is that whether with dance or any other subject, a good educator pays attention to their students and they serve their students. 

There's a saying that says, "If our students can't learn the way we teach, then maybe we should teach the way they learn." And I feel this to be true. 

I hope you enjoy this post and consider expanding your dance practices to all learning abilities. Everyone deserves to get the dance education they desire.

If this is something you’re wanting to add to your studio or dance school and want to learn more about Rythm Works please click HERE.



Want to learn more? Click HERE to listen to Episode 88 of The Dance Boss Podcast: Working More Effectively with Students Who Have Learning Differences and Special Needs with Tricia Gomez Luzio
Erin is an online business coach for dance educators and host of the Dance Boss Podcast. She is a Jersey girl all the way, graduated from Montclair State University with a B.F.A. in Dance and received her Masters in Dance Education from New York University. Erin helps dance educators niche down, build an online business, and bring in additional revenue for them and their families. Erin began her coaching journey as a dance education coach, providing resources and training to help dance educators run more successful classrooms. Now Erin helps her fellow dance educators pursue their dreams and start an online business that impacts the masses.  To learn more about Erin visit erinpride.com, and you can hang out with Erin on Instagram and Facebook.

Comments: 1


Sep 13, 2020

It is truly amazing what a person with disablilities can accomplish, with the help of a person who has patience, understanding and an positive attitude.


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