Ask 8-year-old Autumn Hiatt how dancing makes her feel, and she’ll tell you: “Excited!”
Autumn loves music and dancing, especially dancing ballet at Kansas City Ballet School. She looks forward to it each week. She even kept up with her pre-ballet class via Zoom earlier this year. When in-person classes opened up again in September, she and her mother Ellen jumped at the chance to be part of them. They also appreciated the new safety protocols, including masks, sanitizing stations, and social distancing in class and throughout the building.
The Adaptive Dance Program Opened the Door
Autumn, now a third grader, began her relationship with Kansas City Ballet School several years ago as part of the Adaptive Dance program. Adaptive Dance classes include rhythmic activities guided by a team of teachers and helpers to stimulate fine and gross motor skills. Speech and language development, as well as sensory, visual and auditory processing skills also are addressed.
Ellen recalls hearing about the program through the Down Syndrome Guild (DSG), longtime supporters.
“We started out with great teachers and helpers who were really supportive. It’s both a creative outlet and a physical therapy. Balance and jumping, skipping and galloping. We’ve seen the program grow and that’s been nice,” Ellen admits.
“We’re in pre-ballet now and she has some skills she needs to learn. But I don’t want to limit her. Some of the students are younger. But if she still loves it, I want her to stay involved,” Ellen says.
Ellen continues, “It’s been nice that she’s been able to move up. A couple of years in Adaptive Dance and she was ready for more. We saw she loved music and dancing. So, we kept it up.”
Benefits for Adaptive Dance Students
Ellen admits they’ve had several friends that have tried the program as well. She’s openly recommended it to others and to the DSG community.
“It’s been a great way for her to express herself, get activity in, and to strengthen her core,” Ellen says. “It helps make me stronger,” Autumn beams.
When asked if she would tell others to take part in the program, Autumn says, “Yeah. I like to dance a lot! They have many kids in the class: boys and girls. And you can move your body and learn different positions.”
Ellen wants Autumn to take ballet as long as she continues to enjoy it. Her hope is that she will progress along the curriculum and participate in additional mainstream ballet classes.
Besides dancing, Autumn shared that she enjoys reading, math, and especially science. She really likes learning about weather, plants, planets and stars. This energetic girl has no shortage of interests. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Autumn smiles a huge, beautiful smile and says, “I want to be a mom. I’ll be perfect! I can show them dance moves.”
Growing the Adaptive Dance Program
Since the program began in 2015, more than 55 students have taken part. The hope for these students is for them to ‘graduate’ from the program and begin to move into classes in the Academy according to their skill level.
Adaptive Dance Program Coordinator Nora Burkitt, says: “We hope to keep growing this program to provide more opportunities for kids looking for a fun dance experience. We want to give as many resources as possible and to provide a quality dance experience in alignment with all of our Academy classes. Our dream is that a student could eventually graduate from the Academy.”
Interested in the Adaptive Dance Program?
KC Ballet Adaptive Dance Programs offer creative movement classes in an open environment for children of mixed cognitive abilities. Begin the registration process today by completing an KCBS Adaptive Dance Registration Form. For questions, please contact Nora Burkitt, Adaptive Dance Coordinator. Check out our Social Story: I go to dance class.