A UK charity for disabled children has produced a unique series of virtual dance classes for children with conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, profound learning disabilities and physical impairments.
Flamingo Chicks is launching Makaton-signed and subtitled online dance classes that disabled children can do with their siblings and carers – and they’re also suitable for children with complex medical needs and life limiting conditions.
Even in normal circumstances, life with a disabled child can be an isolating experience – a study revealed that, before the Coronavirus pandemic, two thirds (65%) of parents already reported feelings of isolation.
Limited social interaction can be due to work, lack of time and money to do activities other families take for granted, fear of people’s reactions to their child. However, lockdown is creating new challenges for families with a disabled child.
The lack of routine, the uncertainty and the added anxiety parents are experiencing about their disabled children’s vulnerability means social isolation is an even greater challenge.
Charity founder Katie is mum to a disabled little girl, so she know just how important initiatives like this are, particularly at a time like this.
‘Being out of routine, missing family plus the familiarity of support that in normal times comes with school and the raft of healthcare professionals we usually access is unsettling for our children,’ Katie tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Many are finding that challenging behaviour is therefore magnified.
‘It’s physically and mentally demanding to be a full-time carer and many are also juggling work without being able to access childcare support. It’s a recipe for extreme levels of stress placed on families.’
Katie says that while there is an overwhelming amount of material online to keep children active and entertained, there isn’t much that is accessible for disabled children, particularly in terms of exercise.
‘We partnered with science charity Lightyear Foundation to offer a unique blend of movement and science – supporting families both in terms of their child’s physical and mental well-being but also keeping up their school work, with each session linked to the national curriculum,’ explains Katie.
The classes are filmed using green screens with animated backgrounds, and aim to not only get kids moving but also immerse them in a magical world of storytelling and music.
Katie says that dance and movement is vital for disabled children, not only to help develop their physical skills, but also as a creative outlet.
‘It allows children to express themselves in different ways, increasing their confidence, and enabling them to reach their full potential,’ says Katie.
‘Dance also develops key skills such as teamwork, communication skills, and problem solving whilst immersing children in a creative environment where they can feel free to be themselves.’
The first class went live this week, and the response from parents and families has already been completely overwhelming.
‘We’ve had an sea of emails, messages and social posts from families as well as health, social care and education professionals saying how valued these new resources are,’ says Katie.
‘The thread through all the responses is the sense that disabled children and their families don’t feel alone – they feel connected again and part of something.
‘We hope that our classes will provide people with truly meaningful experiences that not only brighten their day and provide joy in the moment, but also empower them in their lives.
‘The aim is to build confidence in their abilities and help them learn new skills, whilst also celebrating who they are and creating a community of people that feel included, recognised and able to fulfill their potential.’
The charity will also offer activities for little scientists and crafters, guided meditation and relaxation videos for parents and carers, and ‘smile calls’ via video chat to provide those much needed boosts for exhausted parents.
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