For many kids, dance is an important part of growing up, which is why a studio in Glastonbury, Conn. is offering classes to those with special needs. It’s called “Sunshine Stars” because every child is a ray of sunshine in their own unique way.
“Dance is so special to me and I just feel every child should have an opportunity to participate in a dance class and really get that sense of release of everyday stress that dance has always been for me,” said Janelle Bradway, the owner of New Steps Dance and Fitness Center.
She launched the class this month and says it’s is tailored to kids ages four and up who have down syndrome, autism, and other developmental disabilities.
“Dance is great for these children because it is nonverbal,” Bradway explained. “So you really can just like move and express your body without using words. We see that in their smiles, in their movement, and just their creativity in what they bring to class.”
The class incorporates everything a typical class would.
“A warm up, moving across the floor, create a movement, singing songs,” Bradway said.
The kids are joined by several ‘model’ students who provide support and guidance, and the class is lead by Shawna Macsuga who is not only a dance instructor, but also a special education teacher.
“They can manage movement and their daily lives but also it’s something that’s kind of an outlet for a lot of them,” Macsuga saidl. “There’s also a huge social aspect to it that a lot of people don’t think about. They’re getting to meet other kids, they’re in the room with some kids who don’t have disabilities and some kids who do.”
Four-year-old Cameron Bean was diagnosed with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis at bith.
It causes developmental delays and difficulty with motor skills, coordination and balance. But for moms like Jessica Bean, “Sunshine Stars” is a priceless gift.
“Well as his mother, obviously I love watching him, first of all, improve his skills, and the difference I see every week in terms of his ability to participate and move, but obviously as any parent, I just love seeing him so happy,” Bean said.
The class launched as a pilot program this summer, but because of the overwhelming response, New Steps Dance and Fitness Center will be launching another class this fall. For more information, visit NewStepsDanceAndFitnessCenter.com.