Question: I would want to know how one would go about planning a lesson plan for children with physical or behavioral disabilities. Would it have more “easy” activities?
Physical disabilities and behavior disorder are two different issues.
Physical disabilities require modification based on the disability. First of all, don’t be afraid. Treat the child as a member of the group. Be matter of fact. Be empathetic without being sympathetic.
Hearing – Position the child close to you so they can read your expression. Use a microphone (head set is best). Some schools provide you with a clip on microphone that goes directly to the child’s hearing device.
Sight – Use touch. Sing. Emphasize rhythm. Use imaginative play.
Mobility – Use touch. Encourage children to move the parts that are mobile. Engage with facial expression. Put a child with lower body mobility issues where they can participate as fully as possible, rather than off to the side.
Children act out for different reasons. Some children are ‘low’ (low intelligence). Some have focus issues. Some don’t like to be touched. Some have boundary issues, where they will invade your space. Some want attention at any cost. Some are insecure. (This is by no means the whole gamut of reasons!)
Some are very intelligent and disengage when there isn’t enough stimulation. These are children who will likely be among your best students because they want to move and learn simultaneously.
The teaching skill is to honor this variety within a group and address their differing needs. Sometimes you just can’t win. I once had a student who deliberately did the opposite of everything I was teaching, and talked aloud at the same time. Challenging!
Strategies that work
- Teach 2 of the Four Tools right away (Concentration, Body Control). Add imagination and memory, so they don’t think you are only there to discipline them, but to honor their creativity and intelligence as well.
- Remember that The Sequence (Braindance) helps wire the brain for concentration and focus. Do it regularly!
Exercise released ‘feel- good’ chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin which indirectly influences self-efficacy.
Studies suggest that student behavioral problems may be reduced when non-competitve, nonaggressive physical activities are introduced in school curriculum. (pp. 78 -80, Learning with the Body in Mind, Eric Jensen)
Low intelligence – Applaud and compliment what the child CAN do. Make the rules of the activity for that child simpler. Partner with that child to guide, or have another adult partner. In a room where there is a one-on-one aide with the child, actively engage the help of the aide; don’t let him/her just stand next to the child or stand and speak to the child but not move with him/her. (This can be hard, but you have to take the lead on that.) Pair low children together to do a simplified and modified version of the activity. Pair a low child with a compassionate child of typical intelligence, but don’t make that child be the partner all the time. Not fair to him/her. Stand near the low child to offer guidance.
Focus issues – Teach ‘concentration’ and ‘body control’ and ask for it by name. Create a special signal with the child that means ‘eyes on me.’ Call the child by name, and pause to use the special signal. Compliment the child frequently for using the tools. “Catch them being good.” Do a ‘shake your sillies’ out activity after a challenging one, to help with reset. Use Mountain Breathing. Use Resting in the lesson, but expect to keep it shorter, as that child may wiggle. Adjust that child towards the beginning of resting, then remind them to respect the group by being quiet and still for a few more moments so that you can give other children an adjustment.
Good prompts during Resting:
“Do two things that begin with R: rest and relax.”
“Remember the two S’s: stillness and silence.”
“Remember the three Ps: be patient, peaceful and polite.”
Doesn’t like touch – Ask “may I touch you?” Smile at the child and say something nice…..allow them to come to YOU.
Space invaders – Establish a class rule. “You may stand next to me, but not ON me.” “When you push me I feel hurt because that’s not respecting my body.”
If you must stop a child and sit him/her out, preface that with: “If you can not keep your hands and feet to yourself, I invite you to watch this next activity.” Return to the child after they’ve had time to watch the activity with: “Did you see how the children used their hands and feet? …….. You may come back in to the group and use your hands and feet appropriately …… Good job! Etc.”
Bright but ADHD – Brisk pace. Compliment good choices. Don’t be afraid to stop the activity to ask how they can do something better behaviorally. Have them define the problem “Oops, we have a problem! What is it? Talking? Running? Right! What can we do better? Not run? Good idea! Let’s do it again.”
Use the body shapes for learning frequently (sit ready position, etc.), even during an activity as a reset.
Autism Spectrum – Transitions are hard for these children. Let them in on the lesson flow so they know what’s coming next. Make a private plan with this child. Ex: Agree on ‘reset’ cues: a shoulder squeeze or subtle visual signal that indicates ‘time to watch and listen.’ Be aware that touch, loud sounds and bright light may be an irritant. Be patient, kind and flexible.
For more good ideas….. see work by Eve Kodiak who had developed movement exercises that help children with mind-body integration.
I suggest “Rappin’ on the Reflexes” from her work – a CD/book combination. Read more about it on her website and order the material.
Doing something you’ve never done before can be intimidating.
A couple of years ago, I decided to audit a hip hop class. Most of the students were college freshman. Then there was me, a senior……citizen.
The first day I had to make myself be okay with moving across the floor. That’s the part of class when it’s you and three other dancers and the rest of the class is either waiting to start or waiting and watching on the other side. I had to dig down into my ego place and let go of my fears about public risk-taking.
It was hard to come back to the next class, but I made myself do it.
By the third day, I got into the groove. During the semester I learned to loosen up, get more grounded, and expand my identity beyond “modern dancer.”
Not only was it a pivotal experience for me, but I also earned the respect of the freshman class.
Similarly, our students may start by being intimidated or slow to embrace the new things we are teaching. This creates chaos, such as acting out, laughter, or non-compliance. In classes with youngest children, some may sit out, be reluctant to enter the room, cling or cry.
However, by Day 3 this dynamic has shifted. The little girl who wouldn’t enter the room without Mom is now pushing Mom out the door. The little boy who wouldn’t take off his shoes and socks is now relishing the feeling of bare feet on the floor.
For us, the teachers, the Rule of 3 also applies. The first time I teach a new activity, my delivery may be a little clunky. I haven’t yet figured out the fewest, best words and movements to demonstrate the skills. By the third time I teach that activity, the flow is better and I have clearer expectations for the outcome.
How does the Rule of 3 apply to becoming a creative dance teacher?
The first time I taught Anne Green Gilbert’s concept-based approach and lesson plan structure – and this was after 20 years of following my own methodology – I felt like I was wearing borrowed clothes. Having children say the concepts aloud was new to me, as was including a time for constructive resting. I had to trust the act of leaving my comfort zone so that I could grow as a teacher.
The upshot is this: be patient with yourself, your students and the process. It takes a while to get comfortable with “the new.” But the courage and perseverance is worth the reward, for students and teachers alike.