Children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) often struggle with the everyday activities that people normally go through. Coordination is off, along with the ability to focus and maintain proper body control. Occupational therapy is typically the method used to help treat SPD, but professional OT can easily be supplemented with a variety of other physical activities. Ballet classes have multiple benefits for a child dealing with SPD. The longer a child enrolls in classes, the more they can help improve their symptoms of SPD.
The following five ballet class functions help with multiple conditions of SPD. By explaining these problems to a ballet teacher, extra time and guidance can be given to a child with SPD.
Children with SPD often have weak arm and leg strength. By honing in and focusing on those specific areas, a child can build the strength and have more control over their body. There are specific ballet activities that focus on both the arms and legs.
- Arm Strength: The ballet barre is a great way for children to use their arms and build strength. When a child holds themselves up on the barre, they are building muscles in the forearm and bicep.
- Leg Strength: Through the opening stretches and all the way to end of class, leg strength building is important during ballet. Children can perform squats and leg lifts to help build muscles in the calves and thighs.
One of the key elements in ballet is balance. This is also one of the hardest things for a child with SPD. Not only will ballet class teach children a variety of balances, but those exercises can be implemented into a daily routine at home.
For example, before breakfast each day, a child can perform ten minutes of balancing routines. This will help the child maintain proper posture and build a regime. Practicing at home will also help increase their skills during the actual class.
Children with SPD can often lose focus, become easily distracted, and are more sensitive to harsh lighting or loud noises. A typical ballet class offers the perfect atmosphere for a child to relax and focus. The quiet and relaxed nature of ballet allows a child to be aware of the actions their body is performing.
Low lighting in studios can help them perform and achieve goals they have never reached before. The quiet and harmonic music featured in ballet can also help soothe nerves and help a child with SPD focus on their ballet training.
It is normal for a child with SPD to flail their arms or have little control over the body. A ballet class can help a child become more aware of these movements. By breaking down the individual steps in a dance, the child can step back and realize what is happening. Each step will then slowly blend together until a full ballet dance is performed.
Body awareness is also helped when a ballet class features dances with partners. A child will be with a partner and more responsible for the moves that they must complete.
Another factor that hinders children with SPD is clothing. Sensory problems can lead to frequent fidgeting or irritation when they are in certain types of clothes. The tights and outfits of a ballet uniform can help a child adapt to the clothes.
The first couple of ballet classes may be a challenge, but it's all about adapting and becoming used to the clothes. When the child does not have class, they could actually wear the uniform around the home for more help with the SPD symptoms. Once adapted to the ballet uniform, a child may be more open to other outfits, textures, and materials.
Helping a child along the way is the best way to get the most success out of ballet class. Explain the different exercises, dances, and activities they will be participating in so that they can prepare properly.