Working with children on the autism spectrum is very challenging, but is also rewarding. These are children who need special attention, special teaching methods. But once they become familiar with the new environment of the dance class and after the first basic exercises they already begin to establish self confidence. And then, some of them really open and become creative, that’s when you start seeing their potential. Because dance is a set of routines, it is very suitable for ASD children, as they are eager to follow instructions. Our method encourages them to follow the pace and be on their own. Here in New York, Brighton Ballet Theater brings the traditions of Russian ballet school and dance to the United States, and makes it accessible to children of all ages and social backgrounds and the class for autistic children is one of the latest addition to our programs.
My approach in dealing with autistic children is to loosen them up from parental supervision and shape their ability to start doing things by themselves, by stimulating their creativity. We also teach our children how to fix their attention on teacher and not be distracted by other colleagues during the class, which also is a boost to their learning ability overall. The lesson is structured in such way that children with highest interest and opening start developing coordination of movement, flexibility and a correct body posture. For that we are using hula hoops, balls, toys, scarves and other props. The exercises I do with them help children learn basic steps on music notes from the very beginning, and get along with other children and teachers.
According to experts, between 60% and 80% of communication is non-verbal, meaning that more intentions, assertions and feelings are conveyed through body language, gesture, facial expression or tone of the voice than by spoken language itself. By music and body movement I look to attain two goals: making children comfortable with sound stimuli, and have more control over their body movements, which helps communication over all. In our classes we have live piano accompaniment by a professional concertmaster. Also I offer our children various music instruments by which they can play along like a band or even express themselves individually like soloists. In addition to the general physical health effect our classes give them the ability to control their body, which allows children to feel stronger and confident, by creating a sense of inner freedom of expression through music and body movement.
Therefore dance can be most helpful for autistic children and we look forward to bringing more children and parents aboard to attend Brighton Ballet classes. You can read more about my work with ASD children – “The Russian ballerina modified her approach to work with autistic children and parents are singing her praises” by NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Or check a new website of American Autism Association that provides educational services and financial assistance to enable individuals with autism to function as meaningfully and independently as possible in their everyday lives.
And please donate to my team of Ballet with Autism for Walk Now for Autism Speaks – Queens/ Manhattan Walk which will be on Sunday, April 26, 2015. It is an inspirational opportunity to raise money and awareness to help change the future for all those who struggle with autism. Participating in Walk Now for Autism Speaks empowers you to make a difference and provides you with an opportunity to honor someone with autism. Everyone is touched by autism in a different way.