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An Occupational Therapist Uses Dance to Reach Special-Needs Children

Posted by Brian Spence on Jan 27, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Occupational Therapist, OTA, Allied HealthDancing is something that many young girls aspire to do. But for children with special needs, dance classes can be intimidating. Children who have physical ailments or other limitations might feel self conscious in a standard dance class. That doesn’t happen in a class in Maine called Steps of Grace, a special class developed by an occupational therapist for children who have special needs.

Mallory Lanier created Steps of Grace to give children who have physical challenges the opportunity to learn to dance in a comfortable environment, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

The class combines two of Lanier’s loves. Before becoming a pediatric occupational therapist Lanier grew up studying and teaching dance and ballet. Now she makes dance accessible to those who might otherwise not pursue dancing opportunities.

The class is similar to other dance classes but Lanier incorporates more helpers than a typical class in order to give special needs children more individual attention. When children need help with movement or balance, volunteers can step in to assist, Lanier explains.

One of Lanier’s students was born with a congenital disorder called Hurler syndrome. The rare disease results in the body’s inability to produce an enzyme needed to break down long-chain sugars. Though Hurler syndrome is not always apparent at birth, by age 3 children with the disorder may start showing abnormal bones in the spine, claw hands, and joint disease, according to Medlineplus. The young dance student had previously tried a different ballet class but didn’t like it, the girl’s mother told the Chronicle. But the girl has now found comfort and a love of dance in Steps of Grace.

The special class removes threatening feelings a child might feel being mocked by other children for being different, Lanier says. But she finds that the class also gives her therapeutic benefits. Lanier's occupational therapy work has her moving from one appointment to another. The class offers her a way to get away from that routine, she says.

Occupational therapy can come in many different forms. To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.

 

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