There are many benefits for individuals with special needs to participate in dance classes. These benefits include, but aren’t limited to:
- 1. Physical fitness – individuals can get to and maintain a healthy body weight
- 2. Dance can improve flexibility, strength, and motor skills
- 3. An increase in confidence and self-esteem
- 4. Having an outlet for creativity and imagination
- 5. It’s a great stress relief and can help diminish depression
A body in motion stays in motion. Physical fitness is so important for everyone’s overall health, body, and mind. Even student’s in wheelchairs can reap the benefits of dancing despite being seated for the lesson. “Traditional exercising” is boring for many people, but dance is fun. Individuals can come to class, get their heart rate up and burn calories, all while having a good time and feeling like they are part of something.
Flexibility, Strength and Motor Skills
Being idle can actually contribute to severe problems with the body. When we dance we make our muscles move and contract, rather than letting the body get weaker, and potentially allowing muscles to get stiff and even atrophied. Luckily, beginning to move and exercise can reverse muscle atrophy and help the body get stronger and more flexible overall.
Motor skills are also improved with dance because it focuses on strength and coordination. And as we dance, our posture and balance improve as well.
A report titled Dance for Special Needs Students: Building Confidence and Motor Skills, by the University of Northern Colorado, stated, “Some of the benefits from physical activity would be strength, endurance, and increased coordination. Motor capabilities such as speediness, steadiness, and flexibility will increase as well. Children with physical disabilities will also be able to regain or increase muscle strength and balance while mastering milestones such as bending of the knees while walking, following directions, and hand-eye coordination.”
Confidence and Self-Esteem
Dance allows people with special needs to feel like they are a part of their learning. Rather than being waited on or coddled, they are given the opportunity to do something for themselves. This independence boosts their confidence and self-esteem and can release endorphins in the brain. And, the act of learning and working towards something gives students a sense of accomplishment, and instant gratification, aiding in self-assurance.
A dance class is also a fun and safe environment for them to learn and grow in. Odds are everyone around them is learning something new and has not yet mastered any of the skills. Therefore, they are able to bond with other students in the common goal, and as a result, may promote better social and interpersonal skills.
Outlets for Creativity and Imagination
There aren’t any rules when it comes to dancing. Sure, there may be some technique involved, but some of the fun of learning choreography is putting your unique spin on what you have learned. Through dance, children can express their emotions that might not be easy to express verbally. They can imagine the best way to move in their minds, and then physically create the movement with their bodies.
The music combined with a general idea of how to move can turn into a beautiful display of creative expression. Where a child with special needs may have difficulty with speech, math, and science, dance will activate their imagination and light up their brains in new and exciting ways. In fact, the report from UNC mentioned earlier states, kinesthetic activities such as dance, “may result in an increased ability to learn material” in school.
Provide Stress Relief
It’s no secret that growing up with special needs can be stressful. Dance gives those with special needs a way to “blow off some steam” in a safe environment. Any exercise relieves stress, but the creative outlet that dance provides may alleviate more stress than other forms of physical activity.
Dance can be physically, mentally, and emotionally therapeutic. Students can leave it all on the dance floor, so to speak. When the music comes on, the pain and worry can just leave the room, if only for the time of the class. As your body becomes fully immersed in the movement, your mind enjoys a state of euphoria that can leave residual effects long after the music stops.
As a result of this stress relief, some students find that dance can diminish feelings of depression, and make them feel “normal”. Combine this with the increased level of confidence and self-esteem, and individuals could start pushing themselves in other areas and aspect of their lives.