When modifying the dances/movements, remember to check if the student has an Individual Education Program and then incorporate the student’s goals into the dance sessions.  Also, check with the classroom teacher for information on teaching strategies that can lead to success for each student.


Learning Disabilities, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),

Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD)

·   Encourage dancers with ADD to count beats out loud along with teacher.

·   Encourage effective positioning of dancer with ADD or ADHD including having dancer stationed at the end of the front row.  This will prevent student from being “crowded in” and allow for fewer distractions of not having classmates in front of them.

·   Provide a home base such as an X on the floor for dancers to orient them selves to and self monitor their positioning.

·   Give short, specific movement tasks rather than lengthy movement problems. Use cue words rather than long explanations.

·   Present creative activity and skill development in a noncompetitive way, avoiding complex ideas and movement combinations.

·   Emphasize divergent thinking over convergent thinking to help eliminate fears of right or wrong choices.

·   Move in an area that is free of visual, auditory, and physical distractions.

·   Use a multi-sensory approach when presenting movement tasks or new movement skills. Describe (auditory, stimulation, demonstrate (visual stimulation), and have students practice (kinesthetic stimulation) a skill.

·   Understand that a “mirror effect” may be difficult for student to translate from the instructor in terms of right/left movement. Possibly use same color wrist and/or ankle “bracelets” for instructor and dancer to follow each other, or do side-by-side/font-back?

·   Understand that crossing midline might be difficult and that you should provide simple movements across the midline before adding combinations and patterns that require this skill.

·   Work without music first, as it may be difficult from an auditory processing standpoint for the dancer to process your words and pick them out from a music background especially music with words.

·   Provide lots of encouragement and practice.


Autism & Other Pervasive Developmental Disabilities

·   Provide a routine for the dance instructional session.  Offer a variety of stimulating creative experiences, but keep lesson format consistent.

·   Do not leave the child out of an activity.  Allow the child to be involved in his/her own way.

·   Give a 5 minute, then 1 minute ‘warning’ when you are going to stop and move on to another activity.

·   Provide concrete examples and relate all new movements to previously learned moves or to typical life skills at home (i.e., open and close a door for a pulling or pushing movement).

·   Carefully select non-threatening movement qualifiers that can still elicit creative choices (wide and twisted shape vs. upside –down shape).

·   Enter the child’s world by selectively mirroring or imitating his/her actions.

·   Provide a home base such as a circle made by tape on the floor for dancers to come back to for instructions or to regroup.

·   Provide clear boundaries for the student to understand the limitations of personal space if necessary.  Or, you may allow the student to select and move within a comfortable area.

·   Bright, colorful props provide additional motivation for this population.

·   Using cue words rather than long explanations are most effective.

·   Extra demonstration, parallel demos, and doing the skill with the students usually increase success and time on task.

·   Understand that some students with autism are hypersensitive to loud noises and music, but are generally drawn to music and rhythms at a moderate volume.

·   Often, sensory integration disorder is concurrent with autism and some students prefer not to be touched, but may initiate the touch themselves..

·   Overloading of the senses may cause dancers with autism to appear confused, agitated, or assertive with verbalizations, demonstrate run away behavior, refusals, and possibly pushing or striking others.

·   Relate song and/or dance to students favorite movie, cartoon character, game etc


Emotional Disturbance

o       Provide the child with comfortable, accessible movement activities where he or she can appropriately expend energy and express emotions in positive and socially appropriate ways.

o       Praise positive, non-aggressive responses to movement tasks.

o    Create a movement space that feels safe and is free of distractions. Consider room size, temperature, and color.

o    Keep movement experiences non-threatening and non-competitive.

o       Work with movement activities that can build confidence through quickly-achieved success.

o       Keep directions to movement tasks simple and clear.

o       Incorporate positive physical contact into the lessons if the child responds positively.


Hearing, Speech or Language Impairment

·   Face the student and maintain eye contact.

·   Avoid unnecessary walking around the room when teaching. It becomes difficult for a student to see and follow important instructions being given, and concentration is easily lost.

·   Give short clear instructions. Avoid changing the subject suddenly.

·   Help the student use his or her visual, tactile, and kinesthetic senses to explore and communicate ideas. Utilize pictures, pipe cleaner sculptures, etc. as movement stimuli.

·   Use the dance elements time, space, energy, and relationships to expand sign language actions into dance phrases.

·   Transfer music into a physical experience. Encourage students to feel the beat through the ground, or let them manipulate instruments and props to create rhythms that can be felt.

·   Make rhythm visual. Bounce a ball, flash lights, clap, or exaggerate a rhythm with other parts of the body.

·    Understand basic concepts related to the Deaf culture as well as their viewpoint about music, songs, and dance.

·   Make use of creative methods for “feeling” the beats, such as with balloons, drums, or other sound transfer methods.

·   If you do not know sign language, use facial expressions, gestures, pictures or written messages to communicate ideas.

·   Devise a communication system most effective for dancer, possibly utilizing sign language, picture exchange, pen and paper, or yes/no answers.

·   For students who have difficulty processing the spoken and written word, provide opportunity for visual demonstration and physical guidance. In addition, provide time for extra practice and assistance with movements and skills.


Intellectual/Cognitive Disabilities

·   Remember to use age appropriate music even though some dancers with cognitive delays like younger songs. Often the Disney version of pop/rap/hip-hop may provide the compromise needed in this area.

·   Use physical guidance but explain using a short description what you will be doing first.

·   Give a 5 minute, then 1 minute ‘warning’ when you are going to stop and move on to another activity.

·   Check frequently for understanding and ask specific questions rather than “Does everyone understand that?”

·   Keep directions simple. Stay with concrete ideas and avoid the abstract.

·   Give immediate feedback; frequent praise and motivation.

·   Be patient. Remember that each child experiences fulfillment in a different way. For some the joy may be reflected through facial expression, eye movement, or in an attempt to feel the music. Others may find success in lengthened attention spans, or demonstrating a skill for the first time.

·   Use multi-sensory teaching approaches. Pictures, scarves, hula hoops, hats balloons, rhythmic instruments, and other props provide helpful visual, auditory, and tactile reinforcement of ideas.

·   Solidify and refine concepts through repetition. .


Orthopedic and Physical Impairment

·   Fully understand and research the physical disabilities and the orthotics, prosthetics and other assistive mobility devices involved.

·   Determine if the dancer will remove their devices and utilize the floor or mat, or will they use their wheelchair, canes, crutches, or walkers.

·   Provide a chair for rest periods or a space near the wall for leaning, for those who use canes, crutches, or walkers for when they need their hands/arms free.

·   Give each student enough time to explore and practice a movement since motor ability is limited and reaction time is slower.

·   Encourage non-ambulatory students to use his arms and torso to explore time, space, and energy. Extend upper body movements by using props such as scarves, hoops, elastics, balloons, and stretchy fabrics.

·   Use wheel chairs as "dancing chairs."

·   Invite a teachers' assistant, paraprofessional or student from another class to partner with a student with a physical disability.

·   Physical disability is non synonymous with mental disability. Do not assume that a student with poor motor or communications abilities is mentally impaired.

Visual Impairment

·   Provide a safe, obstacle free dance space that can facilitate trust and uninhibited movement exploration. Acquaint the student with the space by moving with him from wall to wall while counting the number of steps taken.

·   Give clear verbal descriptions of movement tasks and their spatial orientation. Describe a movement's rhythm, direction, size, shape, and quality. Compare concepts to textures and sounds the child can relate to.

·   Use floor textures to help direct the use of space.

·   Give directional assistance by using a clock-face method. For instance, "Walk diagonally at 2:00."

·   Use touch to help the student learn about shape and design. Provide sculptures of varying sizes, textures, and shapes for the child to feel and reproduce with his or her body.

·   Keep descriptions of ideas related to things the student knows first hand. Rather than asking him to design a shape that is "spherical," compare the shape to a soccer ball, and then define the shape as being spherical.