Do you want to make extra income organizing dance classes for people with special needs? If YES, here are tips to help you as a special needs dance teacher. People with special needs or disabilities always want to feel that they belong; they always want to be treated just like everyone else, and dance remains one of those beautiful hobbies that lets them forget about their worries, and escape into the rhythm.
For a dance instructor or the owner of a dance studio, offering dance classes for individuals with special needs could be just what you need to fill your studio hours while also offering a service that is so rewarding for the individual, their family, and the community.
Just like we already know, physical fitness is very crucial for your overall health. Even if you have students in wheelchairs, there are dance moves you can teach them to help them reap the benefits. Traditional exercising is boring for many people, but dance is enjoyable. People can come to your class, get their heart rate up, burn calories, and all the while having a good time.
Table of Content
- Why Organize Dance Classes for People With Special Needs?
- 1. Ask Questions
- 2. Use the Buddy System
- 3. Find Something They Respond to Positively
- 4. Take your Time
- 5. Praise Effort, not Correctness
- 6. Be Ready to Change your Plans
- 7. Use Refocusing Strategies
- 8. Offer Drinks and Snacks
- 9. Parents are Great Resources
- 10. Have an Appropriate Ratio of Adults to Children
Why Organize Dance Classes for People With Special Needs?
For people with special needs, staying idle can without doubts contribute to severe problems with the body. When we dance we move our muscles instead of just letting the body get weaker and potentially allowing muscles to get stiff and even atrophied. Good exercise can reverse muscle atrophy and help the body get stronger and more flexible.
Dance also allows people with special needs to feel like they are a part of their learning. Rather than being waited on or coddled, they are offered the platform to do something for themselves. This independence boosts their confidence and self-esteem and can release endorphins in the brain. Additionally, the process of learning and working towards something gives students a sense of accomplishment, and instant gratification, aiding in self-assurance.
A dance class also provides a fun and safe environment for these wonderful people to learn and grow in. The music combined with movement can turn into a beautiful display. 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.
Dance can also be physically, mentally, and emotionally therapeutic. These 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.
Once the body becomes fully immersed in the movement, the 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”.
If you’re considering offering special needs dance classes in your studio, it will be very thoughtful to understand a few things up front. You will have to understand the benefits of the classes for individuals with special needs. Also, you’ll have to know the things you have to do in order to offer these types of classes.
10 Tips for Working with People With Special Needs as a Dance Instructor
Working with people with special needs can be quite challenging, and asking them to complete a task can seem downright impossible at times. Nonetheless, your aim should be to provide them with a safe and welcoming environment, especially in the arts.
When special needs people, especially children, are offered a platform to express themselves, they are able to access vital social, emotional and physical experiences. Here are some tips for helping special needs people get the most out of a dance (or any other) class.
1. Ask Questions
Especially with special need children, it is imperative to always check in with them. Ask them what their favourite dance move is and have the class follow them. Note that giving the child the opportunity to air their own experience boosts their confidence and makes the experience more meaningful for them.
2. Use the Buddy System
Your dance class can be an awesome socialization opportunity for people with special needs. Pairing a special needs person with another (with or without special needs) gives them the opportunity to have meaningful reactions with other people. Buddies can also give them the platform to collaborate and learn from each other.
3. Find Something They Respond to Positively
This could be a specific song, movement, or toy, but finding something that roots the child or person can be very useful. If their attention or focus starts to wander or they are upset, you can use this to regain their focus and comfort them.
4. Take your Time
To work with people with special needs, patience is a necessary skill. If you are not used to working with people with special needs, you may need to think of creative ways to explain things. For example, rather than saying “lift your arms up high,” say “try to touch the ceiling!” Remember; don’t be discouraged if they don’t pick it up as quickly as you are used to. It may be necessary to describe things in many different ways before finding something that works.
5. Praise Effort, not Correctness
Try not to think that there is a correct way to do something. It is important that these special people confidently express themselves in a way that is meaningful to them, not necessarily that they have all the right answers. Swapping out the “that’s right!” for “you’re working so hard!” can lower anxiety and help kids feel more comfortable.
6. Be Ready to Change your Plans
Anyone who works with people with special needs knows that things don’t always go according to plan. However, try not to be discouraged or angry if they fail to do something that you planned. Always be prepared with a backup (and a backup backup!) plan and be flexible. Perhaps you and the child will discover something together that is more meaningful than your initial plan!
7. Use Refocusing Strategies
Also note that having some simple, silly strategies in your arsenal for refocusing can keep you calm in tough situations. For example, have a special need child “shake it out,” starting with their arms and then legs and then face. Try the “lemon face/lion face,” where you make a sour face like you just ate a lemon and then a big wide lion face with a big roar. Go back in forth between these faces. Silly little things like this don’t take up much time but can help regain attention.
8. Offer Drinks and Snacks
Dancing works up a sweat, so selling snacks and drinks to your dancers is a really easy way to increase your profit. Note that you can likely buy the items in bulk, and then sell them for a profit in your studio. Single-serving bags of trail mix, granola bars, pretzels, snack bars, sports drinks, bottled water and juice are great ideas, but you can expand your offerings based on how much space you have in your studio to set up your snack bar.
9. Parents are Great Resources
Parents of special needs kids always know what accommodations are necessary for their child and what their child typically responds to. If possible, you should consider checking in with the parent before working with the child so that there are fewer surprises in a class. Do not forget to ask the parent if there is a particular song or toy the child enjoys and be prepared to use this knowledge if the child needs to be comforted.
10. Have an Appropriate Ratio of Adults to Children
In your studio sessions, it may be necessary to have a higher ratio of adults to children than normal. Smaller groups of children allow you to give the necessary attention to ensure that the environment is safe for everyone. Also, a smaller ratio gives you a better opportunity to maximize each child’s experience.
If the group is too large for you to give appropriate attention to a child, it may be useful to have an aide present who can focus on helping specific children.
If you decide to start offering special needs dance classes as a way to generate extra income, then you will also have to get the word out effectively. You could reach out to local schools, send emails to your current database, and announce it on social media letting everyone know about your new offerings. Nonetheless, any way you would promote your other classes, you should use to promote these classes as well.