Success is defined differently when I’m teaching dance to my students with Autism. Given the very unique ways in which these students interact, there’s a feeling of victory when a student joins me in what I’m modeling, allows me to help, follows my lead, works with me. If every one in our small class moves or stops together with a musical cue or joins me in a belly crawl, it’s almost shocking — and the instructional assistants and I trade startled glances. Success is when interaction — so natural with other students — happens at all.
And it is so much more so if the effect of dance class reverberates for a student outside the classroom.
Tommy is seven years old, and he’s only just begun to join our activities. A few weeks ago, we were working on body shapes (twisted, straight, angular, curvy…), and I read Alphabet Movers by Teresa Benzwie to his class. Tommy loves the alphabet! He listened when I read the book, he immediately tried all the poses, and by the second time through the book, he was taking the shapes before I even turned the page.
A body shape for every letter…
I excerpted the stick figures from the book, so I could do them in sequence with the kids to music (Pizz.ah! by Eric Chappelle on Music for Creative Dance, v. II).
This week his teacher sent me a picture of what he had doodled on the white board in their classroom, while she and his mother were having their parent-teacher conference:
Tommy’s doodles on the white board