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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2001 5:45 pm 
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My memory is jogging a bit here - perhaps I am having a "senior moment" - LOL - but wasn't there a deaf Miss America - and didn't she dance?<P>And then of course there is blind Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2001 7:01 am 
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Location: Quincy, MA, USA
The 7-year-old son of a friend of mine has ADHD. My friend's ex-husband wants their son to take ballet, even though the boy has been asked (via his parents, of course) not to return to a children's karate course. Seems that Matt fidgeted; spoke out of turn; couldn't seem to concentrate; etc.<P>So I said to my friend that ballet was a lousy idea for Matt: None of those behaviors would be tolerated in a dance class, either.<P>But now that I've read this thread on Special Needs Students, I'm afraid that I've given bad advice. Should I recant it?


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2001 7:28 am 
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I would never discourage anyone with ADD from trying ballet class. It couldn't hurt and it might help.<P>He might have a wonderful teacher who could handle his behavior and deal with it in a constructive manner.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2001 9:02 am 
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A story from Tampa Bay about a special, new dance company, Asher Dance Eclectic:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>To dream, to dance<BR>A dance therapist forms a troupe in which dancers who use wheelchairs or leg braces perform alongside those with full use of their legs.</B><P>BABITA PERSAUD, St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay<P>...<P>And she wants to dance, despite leg muscles weakened by a congenital deformity called arthrogryposis.<P>...<BR><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www.sptimes.com/News/041401/TampaBay/To_dream__to_dance.shtml" TARGET=_blank><B>More</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 4:13 am 
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Location: Iola, Texas
Wednesday night was my first class as a teacher. I am teaching a beginning 10+ combo. Right before the class started, I found out that one my students is autistic. I spoke with her mother and she explained that Emily does very well with visual explainations and remembers everything. She had been taking private lessons from one of the other teachers all summer and was very familiar with the terminology and structure of the class. She was so excited about being in a class with other students.

Well, as nervous as I was about teaching this class, this made me even more nervous. I never had any dealings with autistic children. My sister-in-law is a special education teacher. She wants to work with autistic children. She always explained that they were very inspirational to her. In a way, I'm glad I didn't know to much beforehand (the studio owner just told me that one has an attention span problem.) I probably would have changed the class structure a bit and been even more nervous.

As it was, the class went very well. I forgot some stuff, but we have all year to get these things down. Emily did great. While she did get off track a few times, she did not wander the room. The few times she spoke out loud were not too distracting. I'm sure that the other girls were wondering what was up with her. Before class started I had each girl introduce themselves and say their age. Emily did great.

Her mother explained that sometimes audible instructions will not reach her. My sister-in-law explained further that autistic children will often hear the first few words and process that slowly, but they miss the rest of the explaination. She said that I might have to go a bit slower when I'm making a verbal explaination that can't be done visually. That or explain it several times different ways.

In any case, I'm really excited about the next class. I thought about informing the other girls about Emily's disability and how they can help her in class - like with across the floor exercises by showing her where to stand and the preparation when it's her turn. I'm going to speak to her mother about this.

It's obvious that Emily loves the class and I'm glad that she is there. Incidentally, her sister also is somewhat autistic and is in my daughter's class in the other room. My daughter said that she noticed that she needed things explained twice in order to get the step.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 4:48 am 
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AHallmark,

Congratulations on your new class. You have in Emily a very special student who deserves the best possible attention and respect. I am autistic and a professional dancer, and I have many strong feelings about the subject of how to train autistic dancers. Please e-mail me (see my profile) as we can talk about it further. But here are a few quick pointers, based on what you said:

1. Remember, Emily is autistic, not stupid. She may actually be very smart. If she doesn't hear something, it's not because she's stupid.

2. Avoid doing anything humiliating to Emily. Many people think autistics have no feelings, but that's not true; we just don't express them the same way as everyone else. We can be easily humiliated. Emily is autistic -- that means different -- not disabled. I have NEVER viewed myself as disabled; this label can be quite damaging. Therefore, I suggest you do NOT explain things to the other kids in the class. Build an atmosphere that values diversity, and the other kids will come to value Emil for her special gifts. Special explanations are appropriate between you and her mother, but not otherwise. Emily will never come into her own as a dancer if she thinks she needs help from others across the floor.

3. It's very true about hearing the first few words and then drifting off. Watch out for this when giving combinations: Emily might get the first few steps but miss the rest. Or by the end of the combinations, she might have forgotten the beginning. The skill of remembering a combination is something you can work with her one-on-one; I'll tell you more about how I trained myself, if you like.

4. It's true about drifting off. Try to avoid extra distractions. For example, I have a teacher who loves to tell us random tidbits between combinations, or between showing us the combination and doing it. That is TERRIBLE for me; I can barely remember what I'm doing by the end! Emily needs to consciously work on building concentration. First for 1 minute at a time, then extending to 45 minutes, then to a whole 1.5 hour class.

5. Always keep in mind the benefits of autism, as far as being a ballet student goes. We have an intense need for routine, regularity. We are the onese who are always there early, ready and warmed up. Never complaining about coming in again and again and again. We're serious in class (why not; we don't have much of a social life with our peers). We have a love of detail and the technique. Ballet technique especially, because it is so logical. If Emily latches herself onto the aspects of the ballet technique, she could really run far with it. For a while, I would concentrate so intently on one little aspect of one position, I would miss the entire barre exercise. But the end result of beautiful technique is a laudible goal.

6. But be careful of anything in ballet that is not logical (i.e. dealing with choreography), or that "breaks" the rules. Emily will need special attention there. And in my own case, I also needed extra work on many "prerequesites" that are assumed, so they're not taught. Things like how to make eye contact, how to walk "naturally", how to deal with the uncertainty involved in moving from the highly structured class to the relatively unstructured rehearsal/performance process.

7. Remember that Emily has just as much potential as anyone else. You may find her very strange, hard to understand at times. Please NEVER lose faith in her abilities. Most autistics don't become professional dancers, but then again, most "normal" people do not either. But I did, and the professional training was one of the best things I've ever done for myself, not just for my life in the studio, but outside as well. Don't take that opportunity away from her; she is capable of anything she puts her mind to. And if she decides she wants to dance, I'm sure she will take you for an incredible journey along the way as her teacher.

<small>[ 09-06-2002, 07:04: Message edited by: citibob ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 11:07 am 
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Location: Iola, Texas
Thank you so much for your reply, Citibob. I read earlier in this (or another thread) that you were autistic. Everything you said was along the same lines that my sister-in-law told me. I am printing your reply and will keep it in my dance binder for me to refer to.

I will take to heart your advice about not telling the class. I was going to speak with her mother about it BEFORE I did anything anyways, but hearing your point of view really speaks volumes. Emily is a great girl and I would hate to do anything that damages her joy of dance.

One problem that I have is that this is a combo class - three disciplines in 1 1/2 hour. Not my ideal, but not my choice. For the first few weeks, I am teaching tap and ballet only - spending 1 hour on ballet with center exercises and then 1/2 hour on tap. I will be teaching the basic steps for both of those disciplines, allowing the girls to improve their coordination and strengthen needed muscles. I am worried that adding in the jazz may confuse her since the technique is a bit different. Especially what you said about choreography breaking the rules. Do you have any suggestions for me on that?

<small>[ 09-06-2002, 13:09: Message edited by: ahallmark ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 11:17 am 
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I just thought of something, Citibob....How did you learn spotting? I'm not going to teach it for some time yet, but it would be interesting to know.

Also, how did you learn to engage your muscles as in pliés and tendues. This is a sort of abstract idea since you can't SEE the muscles being used. I'm having them do very slow pliés so they aren't bouncing - and saying SLOWLY did slow Emily down when she did start to bounce - but how should I explain (or show her) that she needs to ENGAGE the muscles as she works?


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 6:22 pm 
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Location: Toronto Ontario Canada
i find this topic very interesting for two reasons. first of all i worked with a deaf 5 year old girl a few years ago, and i learned so much from her. i helped her to learn how to dance, play the keyboard and participate in drama. it was an amazing experience!
the other reason is because i have minor cerebal pulsy. i was born 6 weeks pre mature with something called inter uterin growth retardation which cause the cerebal pulsy and transvers mialidis (sp?) of the spine. needless to say i have had many obstacles to overcome. i have now completed college and am working on a professional career in ballet.
i am so greatfull for the fact that i have gotten as far as i have and that my mother would never let me give up. i do get frustrated by it many times, but i just have to relax. my teachers have always known and understood. actually a lot of them didnt know at first and where very shocked when my mother told them.
when i see those in wheel chairs because of it i get sad and but happy at the same time because that could have been me.
anyway i think its amazing that there are teachers out there that have the patience to work with children with special needs. i salute you all!


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 6:44 pm 
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Dance Chika...I have to say even the few students that I taught that had some of these challenges, hearing problems, autism, epilepsy, etc., they are a challenge but also just as much a joy. To see a smile slowly spread across the face of such a person when they have accomplished something, is really a ray of sunshine.

AHallMark....I am sure that CitiBob will have some suggestions for you. However, let me say that I found it helpful to use all the senses when trying to convey a concept. A concept like engaging a muscle. You can talk about it, demonstrate it, touch it (well, I suppose we will have to leave out the sense of smell :) ). In another thread I wrote about the difference between a clenched hand (gripped muscle) and the hand lifting a glass of water (engaged muscle). I don't know if you saw that.

However, that is an example I have used in class many, many times. You can actually have the children do that (substitute something other than a glass of water for small children). They can then see, feel, touch and hear about the difference of a gripped muscle and an engaged one. And, transfer that knowledge to the rest of the body. It's fairly easy to demonstrate a clenched foot (gripped muscle) as opposed to a well pointed foot (engaged muscle). They then understand that the first is rather useless, the second very useful.

I hope this helps a bit.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 7:37 pm 
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Autistics certainly have attention problems. But there is typically one thing that the autistic person will latch onto, become obsessed with. If ballet becomes that thing in Emily's life, then she will be a very good student. If not, well, she'll move on to something else.

No one really knows how or what ends up grabbing the autistic attention. If dancing is a good experience for Emily, then that will probably make her more likely to gravitate towards it as her obsession.

In my case, I found that I did have a certain degree of control over my autistic obsession. It has really scared and confounded me at times; why can't I just be "normal" and live a balanced life? After having been led astray by this aspect of my personality, I made a conscious choice to direct my obsessive energy towards ballet. At least, I would be engaging in something beautiful and respectable. Many autistics aren't so lucky; they end up being obsessed by things like reading the train tables.

Remember that Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were autistic.

As for relations between Emily and others in the class: she needs her self-respect, but she will also likely need some kind of help, a "guide". I've seen communities of children in which the autistic child is well-loved by all, and "taken care of" in a way that maintains self respect. The basis for building such a community, I believe, is mutual respect for diversity. Conformist communities, on the other hand, are the kiss of death for the autistic.

It's possible that this community will spontaneously form around Emily; it's also possible it won't. I remember feeling so left out as a child in dance class (I was also a boy, which makes it difference). So many of the girls are there for essentially social reasons, the socially awkward autistic child who loves to dance could easily feel isolated.

In this case, if it seems that Emily is making no friends, you could become her friend. Autistics often make friends most readily outside their own age group, both older and younger, so she might certainly enjoy you as her friend. It would then become your job to interpret social situations by analyzing them and explaining them to her, step by step, when needed. That is how she will learn, over time, to deal with a highly social world.

In my case, I came to advocate for myself as an adult. My artistic director, Jose Mateo, is MUCH too busy for me to be asking him directly all the time, what's going on. Over the past year I identified a couple of other dancers as "guides" for me through the rehearsal process. These were people I feel I can ask "silly" questions of, and not feel too stupid or humiliated. Questions like "What did Mr. Mateo just say?" or "What's going on right now?" It's hard: the fact that I need a guide makes me always feel like a child, in some ways, in relation to these people. But at the same time I know I am not, and they do not view me as a child either, and I have a lot of "adult things" to bring to the relationship as well. As long as they maintain my self-respect, it works.

The question "What time does rehearsal start tomorrow", I reserve for Mateo only. That's VERY important to get right every time. So after a show, I will stick around until I can talk to Mateo personally. Sometimes I've been the last out for that reason. Somehow, the other dancers figure out when rehearsal starts, but I don't know how they do it.

My dance company is a very chaotic, last-minute environment. That's not good for autistics; uncertainty is very threatening. But I've adapted to it. I expect the uncertainty; it therefore becomes part of the equation. And I've studied Mateo carefully enough that I can predict his decisions better than average (WARNING: mind-reading of the artistic director is NEVER an exact science).

In Emily's case, she is not yet old enough to advocate for herself in this way; you need to do it for her. I would suggest you tell her important things very directly, one-on-one. Also, anything you can write down is good too. But don't just write it, pass the paper to her and expect her to read it. Write it down, tell her directly, and give her the piece of paper so she can remind herself of the details. Some autistics are derailed in academic classes simply becuase they never know what homework has been assigned and when it's due; this problem is easily fixed through proper intervention!

As I child, I studied ballet/tap/jazz as well. I don't remember it all that well, but I did love it all. Over time, as I learned more, I discovered I liked ballet more and Jazz less.

The DIFFERENCE in technique doesn't confuse; autistics can build elaborate sets of rules, as long as they are all rules. So Emily might end up with "in Ballet we turn out, but in Jazz we work in parallel." That's a really fine rule.

The problem comes when there is NO rule, NO way to break down the step. I was in a modern dance class where the teacher said "we don't have a name for this step, I'll call it burst." Well, just how do you burst? How exactly? That was never defined. You were just supposed to "do it". That will never work for me. I can "do it" the first day, but then I want to learn more and more about "burst", until I know it in minute detail. That's why I'm a ballet dancer.

Mateo discovered this about me fairly early on, and we used it to our advantage. No matter what the problem was, we came to believe we could solve it by a careful kinetic and physical analysis of the situation. I remember times when I'd have problems in partnering and my partner would begin to feel frustrated. This is typically with partners who are used to "just doing" things. Mateo would step in and explain to my partner that I'll get it just fine, we just have to analyze the movement. Then he would analyze the movement and that's how I would learn it. My partner would look on in minor shock, since that way of learning means little to her. But in the end it would work and we would enjoy working together. We all have different learning styles, and that's mine.

I remember another time Mateo asked me to take a "pedestrian stance" in one place. That meant absolutely nothing to me, and I told him so. He acknowledged that this is the case with me, and proceeded to construct a "pedestrian stance", bit by bit. "Stand with 70% of your weight on one leg, sunk into the hips a bit, head turned 45 degrees, etc." I did it, and it worked. And that is exactly the position I adopted, and repeated, day after day.

I remember early on in my apprenticeship, I was doing a waltz. I had already learned waltz in ballroom class, and I'd learned about its retrograde rotation. I was very sure of how waltzes go. But Mateo wanted us to waltze in prograde rotation. He broke the sacred rules of the waltz, so to me this wasn't a "real" waltz. That was VERY hard to accept. But now I've "expanded" my ruleset, to say something like "choreographers can do whatever they like, they can break the rules". Since there's a rule that says it's OK for them to break rules, then they're obeying the higher law while breaking the lower. So life is OK.

I am glad that Mateo breaks the rules the way he does. It's tempting to think that I know better: we really should have done a "correct" waltz, for example. But part of what makes his choreography good is those little twists. His asymmetric groupings. I remember one dance he was making, he wanted things to look informal. He was very careful, in every grouping, to avoid symmetry. And at every point that he was pondering the groupings, I was coming up with symmetrical solutions, which he ultimately didn't use. (Mateo would have been happy, in principle, to discuss those things with me. But he's very busy and doesn't hae time to discuss like that in the studio. So usually, I would keep my suggestions to myself, and then compare them to what actually took place).

If it were me, I would maximize the symmetry in every case. It would certainly be an effect, but it would also become boring quickly. There was ONE dance in which Mateo did this, and naturally I loved it.

One thing that really gets me, and continues to get me, is the way Mateo counts music. I was trained as a musician; I remember counting through up to about 40 measures of music, so I could come in at the right time in orchestra. Or there's one part of Beethoven's 5th where only the timpani is playing; I had to listen carefully and count, to be ready for the grand entrance (I play violin). There are rules for how you count. And Mateo, in his own logic, often breaks those rules. I've learned to just accept it, and build "translation maps" between Mateo's counting and my counting. It's just not worth arguing about in the studio.

As for specific suggestions for Emily and choreography: I've thought a lot about this, since my experience approaching choreography was so difficult at first. I think it would help to just explain a few points, as directly as possible; if she trusts you, she will take them to heart and follow them faithfully:

1. The choreographer can break the rules. Ballet class rules apply only as a "default" when nothing else has been specified.

2. It is of utmost importance to be at every rehearsal, and be ready for the show. The performance is sacred. Make sure you know when rehearsals are. Ask the teacher if you are not sure.

3. It is hard, as a dancer, to know what you look like from the outside. The choreographer will be responding to things that you, as a dancer, don't see; you must trust. It helps if the dancer can ask questions later.

4. Dancers often count music differntly from musicians. Your job is to figure out how the choreographer is counting, and to make sense of it.

Another problem with going from class to rehearsal is the relatively unstructured nature of the rehearsal. Maybe give Emily a few pointers on what she is trying to accomplish. For example, "If you're not being engaged at the moment, work on your steps."

In our case, Mateo has an entire system of the rehearsal process, which he teaches. He doesn't force us to use his system, but he suggests it, especially if we don't have a system of our own. This system really helps me organize and approach the task of dancing. In learning a dance, we do so in this order (please, let's see if I can remember off the top of my head):
1. Blocking
2. Directional facings
3. Steps
4. Arms
5. Other details

Those are the "rules of how you learn choreography". So I know that if I don't know the blocking yet, I shouldn't be asking (or worrying) about the arms. It really helps.

Maybe I'll think of more later. I hope this helps as far as making the transition from class to rehearsal.

Spotting: I learned it as a child. But ultimately I probably learned it best this past Spring. It's not just spotting, it's visually navigating and anchoring around the room. Mateo regularly lectures students on the dangers of "wandering eyes". For example, how students will move their eyeballs up instead of looking up. So he gave us some rules, which I finally made more specific for myself:
1. Eyes always point in the direction of the nose.
2. Head faces front by default, both ears showing.
3. When moving the head from one position to another, the eyes can move first and then the head, or the head first and then the eyes. Most of the time, it's the head first then the eyes, so that is my "default". The head may move fast or slow, but the eyes always move quickly and discreetly, almost teleporting from point A to point B.
4. When "panning" the head through a wide range of motion, it's too far to move the eyes quickly across the whole range. In this case, the eyes jump through a series of focuses in the middle of the motion. In each case, the eyes latch onto a point for a little while while the head pans across it, then jump to the next point, until the endpoint is reached.

Number 3 was very key for me. I didn't understand it until I had repeatedly questioned Mateo and he had explained it in a way I could understand; I don't know if others understand it, or if they just do it naturally. Once I learned what I was trying to do with my head and eyes, I began to practice it all the time, in and out of the studio. That was fun; I found I could really surprise people by turning my head quickly and looking straight at them (there's talk of that in the Spring Season Rehearsal Diary).

It is from this eye/head practice, I believe, that my spot ultimately comes. Without this type of training, my eyes wander across a scene in a scanning, somewhat random pattern.

Austistics don't look people in the eye. Emily can learn to look at people's noses, which is good enough for most things.

But to dance, I found I had to look myself in the eye in the mirror. This was mentally painful to train for. I just made myself do it, that's all. I was obsessed with ballet, and I trusted Mateo, and I would do anything he asked me to do. Even if it sounded dangerous.

On engaging muscles: Mateo teaches a kinetic approach, rather than a force-based approach, to ballet. That means, he specifies where the external pieces should be and how they should move, and relies on the "thinking body" (book by Mabel E. Todd) to organize the internal muscles in the right way to get the external pieces in that place. I cannot think of even one time he as told us to use a specific muscle.

Plie: we start in second position. Then we work on moving our knees to the side. This "knee side" action is the heart of plie. We move our knees apart, away from each other, to the side, and the rest of the plie takes care of itself. On the return trip, we bring the backs of our knees together. As I followed these directions, I gradually learned that certain muscles in my groin would stretch.

As for bouncing: we are giving the image of our muscles being like a giant theraband (which they are), and of trying to STRETCH that theraband out like taffee.

The isometric working of muscles is very appealing to me; that may be an autistic trait. You get to FEEL parts inside your body. Once you get it, you don't forget it. Forced turnout can be appealing in the same way, becuase you get to FEEL the inside of your knees. It must be explained that you DO NOT want to feel your knees, but rather your hips.

Tendue: I was told from an early age to move my toe back first when closing from tendue front. This made no sense to me. With less than 180 degree turnout, it is clear that your heel is going back first. Autistics are VERY literal with language. Mateo finally explained it to me. Your toe doesn't lead everything else in the sense of being closer to the standing leg than the heel. Rather, it leads in the sense of BEING THE FIRST PART OF THE FOOT TO MOVE when closing. So it's a sequencing. First the toe starts moving, then a split second later, the rest of the foot. Once this was explained to me, I could work on my tendues a LOT better. Similar ideas to the side and back; I am very good at generalizing principles from one part of ballet to another. Emily might be good at this as well, and you can help her use it to her advantage.

More on bouncing: I always loved to dance, and apparently I was always jerkey in my movement. That is common for autistics, but also deadly for the aspiring dancer. Being neurotic about dancing didn't help me with this either. Until I was 28, telling me things like "breathe deeply" or "relax" or "feel your back" did very little to help me. (What is your back anyway; is it your spine? Or the back of your rib cage? These are the kinds of questions the autistic will get all tangled up in while missing the point).

I finally "got it" in a 2-week seminar in which we practiced the Feldenkreis technique. We worked on breathing every day for two weeks. Once I figured it out, I applied it everywhere to my dancing, and it improved a lot.

I wish someone had shown me a lot earlier. I think people had tried, but for whatever reason it didn't work. I would suggest for the autistic child studying dance, that the breating aspect is brought in from the very beginning. By this I mean Feldenkreis/Yoga type exercises, in which you lie on the floor, learning to understand your breathing. That's a lot to ask of a child, but if she can do it, it would be beneficial.

Even without that, maybe the "breathing lite" system would have helped me. Just a few rules. To me, breathing is like a car (manual shift) in gear. You're going in or out, or hovering, but never really stopping. When you hold your breath, it's like putting on the parking break.

Just a simple rule like "NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH" could do wonders. Of course, first you would have to show what it means to hold your breath. Because I would have thought, as a child, "I'm not holding my breath", even as I hold my breath here and there for a split second. Once I learned that I really WAS holding my breath there (if just for a moment), I was able to stop it. I worked on playing the game of WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH, JUST KEEP BREATHING. And pretty soon, an amazing smoothness in movement followed.

It seems the problem with the plie is one of literalism. You said do it slowly, so Emily did exactly the same thing, but slower. She followed your instructions to the letter, whereas the other students did not. You might just have to explain to her, in full detail, exactly what it is you're looking for. Maybe you could have been more precise by saying "I want you to plie smoothly with no bouncing; and doing it will slowly will help make that task easier for now." Then she knows that "no bounce" is the GOAL, and "slowly" is the MEANS to that goal.

OK, I hope this helps, or at least is interesting. I am not a teacher and have no teaching experience. Everything I say is based on my own anecdotal experience with autistm and with ballet, and my own imagination of how I might improve the training available to autistic dance students.

Mateo has been a good teacher for me. In some ways he has adjusted to me. But in many ways, his "standard" methods of teaching and relating to people just turned out to be autistic-friendly. That's good; I can get what I need in a mainstream environment.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2002 2:00 am 
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Location: New England
ransitions can be especially hard for the autistic. By this, I mean transitions from one activity to the next over the course of the day. They get easier with practice.

For me, whem we move from class to rehearsal, I end up kind of sitting around dazed, not quite sure of what to do next. Same when we move from rehearsal to lunch. Same coming back from rehearsal. And I'm often one of the last (by a few minutes) to go home at the end of the day because that's yet another transition. For the child in such a position, having the teacher come over and say briefly "OK, it's time to go to lunch" would REALLY help.

Emotions: it is important to express feeling and emotions in dance. Many people do it by feeling the correct feeling while they're dancing, and then relying on the correct physical manifestations of that feeling to come out on stage and communicate to the audience.

This approach does NOT work for the autistic. The reason why is that "natural" physical manifestations of emotion are quite different for the autistic, some would say bizarre.

Luckily, Mateo's approach here works very well for me. As with other movement, he focuses soley on the externally visible body parts and how he wants them placed to express a particular emotion or feeling. I do that and over the course of rehearsals, I analyze/ponder the body position vis a vis the feeling it is trying to express. Over time, through this kind of repetition, I improve my ability to read and transmit appropriate body language. VERY valuable, if you ask me.

Basheva is right, engaging as many senses as possible at once is a good idea. As a child, people would tell me I was "gripping", and I had no idea what they meant.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2002 4:32 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 191
Location: Iola, Texas
Thank you so much for you post, Citibob. I will certainly be watching for some of the things that you mentioned. It will take me a little bit to get my bearings since this is also the first time I've ever taught a class. I'm going to be learning alot. I'm sure that Emily will teach me alot - not only about herself, but myself too.

I am looking forward to class on Wednesday. I'll let you know how it goes and probably post more questions.

Basheva, I am wondering if I should start a new thread when I post more questions? I'm sure that whatever questions I post and Citibob's answers will help other teachers that visit this site, but this thread is getting a bit large.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2002 5:19 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
AHallMark, this thread at this point has 42 posts, which isn't very long compared with some others :)

It would be nice to keep this all together - however, I am amenable to having a new thread if this one is giving you problems loading. If you do start a new thread, I will link them.


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 Post subject: Re: The Special Needs Student
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2002 9:05 am 
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Posts: 191
Location: Iola, Texas
We had our second class last Wednesday. A few more girls were added to the role bringing it up to 17. Emily's mom called a few hours before class began. She was very impressed with my class and how well Emily did - apparently she's in dance heaven! She had spoken with the studio owner about how well the class went and was impressed when the owner told her I went on line to find out more about autism and dancing. I told her about you, Citibob, and she wants to pass on her gratitude for the information that you are providing to the dance community.

Emily did very well during the second class. We did individual class corrections for pliés and tendues. She has the general idea but needs to work on form, as all the girls do. From what I could tell, I didn't not loose her during the class and it seemed that she following right along to the end of each exercise. Not always correctly :) but did not stop halfway through.

Tap is going very well. Her mother told me that loud noises used to bother her. But apparently she is having so much fun that the loud reverberations through the room don't upset her. :)

I also ask about hands on corrections. She has never had a problem with physical touch. I introduced rond de jambes and she did very well. She seems to enjoy learning new steps.

Emily's mother also suggested telling the class about Emily's autism. Apparently, she has not had very many "mixed" classes before - if I can use the phrase I certainly do not want to offend anyone - with non-special-needs students. I passed on what you said, Citibob, about my query on that subject. I told her that I would do what she wished and gave time to think about it. I spoke with her before class and she asked that I make an explaination to the class. We agreed on the general wording, keeping it short and simple. At the end of class as we were wrapping things up, I went to Emily, wrapped my arms around her shoulders and introduced her to the class telling them that she was autistic. Emily learns a little differently, but is doing very well in the class and I am very proud of her. I spoke with Emily's mother yesterday (which is why I didn't post an update until today). She said that Emily was fine with what was said and was very happy with the class. As I was waiting for a late parent to pick up one of the 12 year olds, I asked this student if she wondered about Emily. She said she did, but was glad that now they knew what was "wrong" with her. I hope that we made the right decision and that I handled it okay. Only time will tell.

I also spoke with Emily's summer privates teacher last night to find out how far Emily progressed technically. I showed her what Emily was doing and if it was similar or a regression. She said that it was similar. At least I am not pulling her back!

I just want to close by saying that you, Citibob, have given me hope for what Emily can possibly learn in class. I probably would not correct her as "severely" if I did not know that it is possible for the technique to be learned. While she may never progress as far as you have, I will certainly treat her as if it is possible. If you raise the bar just far enough ahead to reach the attainable goals, you suddenly find you have scaled the mountain. I cannot wait to see what the end of the year will show.

<small>[ 09-13-2002, 11:06: Message edited by: ahallmark ]</small>


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