Meet Miss Michelle. In her second year of teaching, Miss Michelle teaches our dancers with sensory needs. Prior to joining the teaching staff, Miss Michelle volunteered in the classes she now teaches. We asked Miss Michelle to give us a look at what goes on inside the Sensory Room.
Here’s what she had to say:
Why is the sensory room important?
The sensory room is important because most if not all of my dancers have special sensory needs that need to be met during class. My students need a smaller room with dim lighting and sensory stimulation to help them concentrate on activities. A typical dance studio would be overwhelming for my dancers, so this studio is wonderful!
What features does a sensory room have that other dance studios may not?
Our sensory studio has many components that other dance studios do not have. We have sensory equipment such as body socks, bilibo seats (we call it the turtle seat), massagers, sensory brushes, weighted blankets, a large green stretch band, trampolines, and everyone’s favorite…the bubble tube! All of these are unique items that you would not see in a typical dance studio.
What does a class look like for you?
All of my classes are so different from each other, so I have a different routine for each of them! Generally I start class by giving my students time to have sensory stimulation with their volunteer, whether it is deep pressure (my students love to be wrapped up like a taco!), spinning in the bilibo seat, back rubs, using massagers, or anything else they may need. I then have our class do stretches together as a group. After we stretch we bounce on balls usually with a prop like pom poms or scarves and then we bounce on balls on our bellies. After we bounce on balls, I choose activities based on the mood of my students that day and any needs I notice they may have.
My classes love “The Goldfish” song, the parachute, the green band, body socks, obstacle courses, instruments, and trampolines. Each of my class
activities are short and I alternate structured activities with sensory activities to help my dancers stay focused. The last 5 minutes of every class is when we sit around the bubble tube. My students look at the lights, get deep pressure, blow bubbles, and relax. We always end class with the dancers thanking their volunteers and saying goodbye to everyone in the room.
My students either are nonverbal or have very limited speech, so we work on basic sign language, body language, and eye contact to encourage communication. There are times where I have to make the decision to only focus on sensory activities to meet the needs of my students. The point of dance class is for the dancers to have fun, so I want to give them what they need in order to enjoy themselves!
What is your favorite part of class?
I love seeing when my dancers and volunteers have made a connection and built a relationship with each other. Since my students have difficulty communicating, it can be more difficult for those relationships to build. When I see my dancers visibly excited to see their volunteers and have fun with them, it makes me so happy!
What does a successful class look like to you?
To me, a successful class is when all of my students are happy. I frequently plan for my classes and then completely stray away from my plans because I want to meet the needs of my dancers and encourage them to have fun! Even if that means all of my dancers are doing different activities with their volunteers, I still think that class was successful because at the end of class the dancers have smiles on their faces and some of them even don’t want to leave!
Do you have a great success story of a dancer you have worked with for a few years?
My last class of the night consists of three young teens with autism. For the past few years we have had no routine and just had class consist of them working with their volunteers only doing sensory activities because that is what they needed. This year, I am amazed with what these kids are doing! We now have a class routine that consists of stretching, bouncing on balls, the green band, and a directional song. I’m so excited that we all do similar activities at the same time! My dancers are doing different stretches and ball activities with their volunteers based on their abilities, but to me just the fact that we are doing the same kind of activity together is HUGE! I also think this will be the first year one of the students in this class will be ready to participate in our annual performance!
Anything else important people should know about your classes?
My classes are very different from most of the other classes at danceability because often times we don’t do activities that people may think of as dance. We do a lot of creative movement activities that encourage my dancers to move their bodies and increase their attention span. I love these classes and encourage anyone who is interested to observe a class and consider volunteering with my dancers!
As an INDIVIDUALIZED dance, fitness and movement program, we are so fortunate to have Miss Michelle to assist each of her dancers in their own way. It’s a common occurrence each Thursday night to see dancers come running in (and out) the studio with huge smiles on their faces. We couldn’t think of a better outcome!