Parents often enroll their children in CYT movement classes at the suggestion of doctors when their children have behavioral, sensory, or developmental disorders.

Many CYT teachers might feel overwhelmed in this situation.

However, all you need is patience, creativity, and sensitivity to create an inclusive classroom:

1. As with any children’s class, quick activity changes while maintaining routine is essential. Depending on the age, switch movement tasks every 5 minutes. If you keep the same order every class, it is easier to introduce new tasks to a child who needs strict routine.

2. Circular rubber mats, aka dots, are wonderful when you have children that need constant refocusing. If they get carried away, you can always call them back to their dots.

3. When teaching new material, approach the task with confidence and enthusiasm. Do not place emphasis on perfection. That will only undermine the children’s trust in your unconditional support.

4. These children will benefit from improvisational dance or pretend play. Encourage them to interact with each other, perhaps by dancing in a circle or creating pretend environments. Once they figure out that you want them to do what they normally do at home, they will freely indulge themselves in free creative play. Once that happens, calmly make suggestions to direct their play to enhance your curriculum. If the topic of the day was barn dances, direct their free play to create a barn-yard scene. Or have them pretend to dance like cows.

5. Young children with behavioral disorders may refuse to participate, at first. Allow the child to sit out. Repeat the invitation to join in every minute. Do not give up. Eventually the child will participate. Sometimes it can take up to two months of weekly classes for the child to feel comfortable enough with you, the other children, and the activities. Once, I created a “puppeteer” character in a showcase script for a girl who could not even speak in class. She shook her head “no” to everything else, but she felt she could perform in that role. And she did a fine job.

I always lose my breath when I see a “difficult” child blossom in my class. What a gift to be there at the moment!

Contributed by Mariah Beachboard, CYT Fredericksburg Teacher

Mariah Beachboard, mother of three, studied theatre at the University of Mary Washington. After graduation, she performed with Theatre IV and the Carpenter Science Theatre Company. While starting a family she taught dance, acting, yoga, and musical theatre at the Performance Place. This is her tenth session with CYT. She is currently teaching Acting Approaches (13-18) for CYT Fredericksburg.

2 thoughts on “Teacher Tips: Creative Movement Steps for Young, Difficult Children”

  1. I think it is disrespectful to label a child with a medical issue as “difficult.”. I Think if parents of a child with special needs knew you were referring to their child this way they would be mortified.

  2. I absolutely understand what you are saying. No disrespect was intended. The “difficult” part is when a teacher does not have enough information or training to understand that their students cannot be simply labeled as “difficult;” that there is always a way to have all children blossom within the classroom. If this was not clearly stated, then my apologies.

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