Reflections from a very soon-to-be-OT!

This summer we had the pleasure of inviting two Occupational Therapy students to The Dance Ability Movement to complete their final clinical placements, a last requirement prior to graduation. We had a very positive experience and are thankful for this opportunity for our own growth and learning as well in our roles as preceptors. Our student OT, Rachel, from McMaster University has written a reflection which she has allowed us to share! Rachel took her first dance class with us this summer…and has come leaps and bounds in her role as a (student) OT in the studio.

“Tiaras, breakdancing, stickers, and pliés: all words I never thought I’d use to describe my summer. To my pleasant surprise my summer consisted of all these things and more.

As an occupational therapy student about to graduate, I was equally nervous and excited to be matched with the Dance Ability Movement for my final clinical placement. How would occupational therapy be applied in a dance program? What would my role be?  Although these thoughts were running through my head I was also thinking that the Dance Ability Movement combines some of my passions: occupational therapy, community health and leisure.

The first dance class I attended made all my concerns disappear. It was absolute chaos: a preschool dance class with 4 completely unique, spirited dancers. There was running, yelling, crying, laughing, IPod hijacking, dancing feet, smiles, stickers, and costumes. Somehow in the midst of the organized chaos each dancer was engaged; either sensing the beat of the song, matching the arm movement of their volunteer buddy or even singing along. Soon the role for occupational therapy became obvious. Occupational therapists enable individuals to be engaged in meaningful activities. In this program, dance is the occupation and the OT uses strategies to enable full participation and engagement in the dance class. Seems straight forward, however I found I was constantly challenged this summer to find creative ways to engage dancers.  Like the Dance Ability Movement says: every person is unique and everyone has the ability to dance. It is our responsibility to highlight the uniqueness of each dancer and provide opportunity for expression through dance. With only a few days left of placement and the summer coming to an end I can honestly say I have learned so much about the benefits of leisure, and creative movement.

Needless to say, it is very easy to become utterly invested in this program due to Mallory and Jade’s passion and motivation and the dancers’ satisfaction during each dance class. I have learned that there is no better feeling than watching someone become completely engaged in what they love and it is a privilege to be a part of that experience. Hopefully this program inspires other professionals and members of the community to create additional opportunities for individuals of all abilities to participate in leisure occupations. All I know is that I’ve never been happier to share my summer experiences of breakdancing, tiaras, stickers and pliés.” – Rachel Martini

Rachel, congratulations on completing your final fieldwork. You have gone above and beyond in so many ways; you are an incredible therapist, student, and dancer! 

See you in the studio soon!

Miss Mallory & Miss Jade

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Reflections from a prospective future OT

We recently supervised a Life Sciences student from McMaster to provide an experiential learning opportunity to learn more about the role of OT in the community. We hoped that our student would see that our passion drives our work while gaining an understanding of the systems that we work within. Crystal agreed to have us share some of her final reflections from the course…

“Through Dance Ability Movement, I’ve learned to further develop my empathy for others and further extend my means of communication through non-verbal approaches, among others. One of my favourite memories in dance class this term is freeze dance. In particular, I recall the first class at the Alliston studio when the streamers became completely undone. It could be considered a disaster (ruined prop and a mess to clean after class). But instead, it became an opportunity to make a student’s day.

“Do you want the streamer or feather in your hair?”

“Yes.”

A gleaming smile and nod to the question reminded me of when I left musical rehearsals for a high-school drama production each night with make-up still on. With either sparkles or bold-colorful makeup, I felt as if it represented the happiness that was shared during practices and I got to leave with the distilled happiness of drama rehearsal still showing on me. In the same sense, I could see the same happiness in their face after the feather or streamer was fixed to their ponytail. Whether it a streamer, feather, smile or memory, I hope that the students continue to experience the inclusivity, development of creative confidence and fun-learning at dance class and leaving with a bit of dance and more.

For me, third year comes with the anxiety of figuring out what to pursue post-graduation.
With friends and peers commenting on how they could see me in occupational therapy
work, this observership and volunteering opportunity came at the perfect time. I got a
glimpse into the work, dedication and heart of two passionate and inspiring OT’s, who
provided me with not only exposure to exactly what I was looking for (exposure to
contracted and private OT work in the community) but they also shared with me their
personal experiences and advice that really helped me better see myself in line with
occupational therapy. Their heart for others is inspiring. I hope that I will also be able to
exemplify and sustain the same passion towards the work I do. Aligning this observership
and volunteer experience for Life Sci 3EP3 into term two is definitely a privilege and
blessing.

Of all my volunteer positions and experience, I have found my time helping at Dance Ability Movement the most rewarding – the personal connections and impact I see that I have on others, and the appreciation that I receive from Mallory and Jade is unprecedented. I look forward to continuing to volunteer with Dance Ability Movement and I’m ecstatic to apply for occupational therapy programs next year.”

– Crystal 🙂

Thank you Crystal for your kind words, insightful reflections, and all that you bring to The Dance Ability Movement. All the best in your OT school applications; we think you will make a wonderful therapist!

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Dancers having fun!

Dancers having fun!

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dance, done, differently

Sometimes the stars align and things work out just as they were meant to be…

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our third host studio for The Dance Ability Movement –> The Dance Workshop, in ALLISTON!

http://www.thedanceworkshop.ca

After starting at our home studio, Dance Elite in Milton, and branching out after four years to Mississauga’s June Lawrence School of Dance, how did we end up all the way in Alliston?

It was thanks to a dance mom (from one of our summer students who traveled to Milton for classes!) who met Colleen & Jennifer from The Dance Workshop at a Potato Festival in Alliston and saw their studio’s slogan…“dance, done, differently”

Colleen, a social worker and certified dance instructor, alongside her sister Jennifer (also a dancer and a school teacher) are a vibrant sister duo…who of course we have really hit it off with! Two dancing sisters who love to teach…AND who think “differently”?! We’ve got a lot in common.

Classes are in full swing now in Alliston. Miss Colleen has eagerly jumped right in to offer inclusive classes for dancers of all ages and abilities! Her new studio location is beautiful and welcoming and her teaching style fits so well with her new dancers. Lots of smiles, energy, enthusiasm (feathers, streamers, drums!) and all around fun!

Starting at this new location, and witnessing the start up of a brand new team of volunteers, a new instructor, and new dancers and families has been an incredible gift. We’ve seen the rippling effects of our approach, values, beliefs and program being spread further and further. Our Health Sciences student from McMaster, Crystal, took the lead in training these new volunteers (along with our wonderful Leah!), and they did a fantastic job. Our new volunteers have bonded so well with their dancers, and are eager to learn, asking all the right questions ! (“Do walkers have brakes?”, “How could I adapt this movement for my buddy?”).  Our new families embracing this program with open minds and open hearts, dancers are already sporting their new dance ability t-shirts and preparing for their first performance! (Although I think the dancers are more excited about Freeze Dance and Pizza making right now! Oh and by the way, Miss Colleen has FANTASTIC Pizza Music…which I must remember to get from her to include in our other classes!)

It’s always a rewarding experience being in the classes, and this start-up has been an incredible learning tool for us as well. Learning how to “coach” our new instructors and team to carry out our vision. Learning how to take on a new role, it’s been tricky to be in the classes without “teaching” the class, without having control over the class flow, instruction, etc. It’s a change of pace to be part of another teacher’s class…especially when it’s got our name on it too! As an OT I am used to wearing many “hats”, and it has been fun taking on this slightly different role, as much as I love to teach. I could not have been more grateful to have Miss Colleen, with her experience and positive attitude, leading these classes. I have learned from her also and taken note of some great songs and activities. It may be a different studio and new teacher, but taking one look around the room it is clear to see that her dancers are having a blast…and THAT is what matters most. Dancers, dancing, differently….sharing the space, sharing the energy, learning and growing together. It is magic.

We learn something new from every dancer and family we meet. Each volunteer also brings their own unique personality and approach to the class. The dynamic is so interesting to figure out! These classes have only re-affirmed the value in what we do and shown us that there is something truly special in The Dance Ability Movement approach and program. Something that allows dancers of all abilities to shine from the inside out. Something that sparks inside of our volunteers who have already grown so much in the first three weeks. Something that is almost immeasurable…but is seen through the smiles, the way the dancers carry themselves, and the energy that fills the studio space (including the lobby of buzzing families!)

I think it starts with the simple belief that everyone can dance. It starts with the understanding that in the studio we are ALL DANCERS! 

I guess it is not surprising that this start-up has been so successful; The Dance Workshop team had it right from the start…dance, done, differently. 

Thank you & congratulations to Miss Colleen and our fantastic new Alliston crew!

See you in the studio,

Miss Mallory

http://www.danceabilitymovement.com

WELCOME TDW Studio & washroomTDW studio entrance

 

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Who’s teaching who?

As we’ve said many times, we feel very fortunate to have found a way to live out our passion. We’ve found our ikigai , our plan de Vida, our “sense of purpose” through our Dance Ability classes.*

Facilitating the participation and engagement of students of all abilities in dance classes in community dance studios. That’s what we do (in a nutshell). It’s not a typical job that you learn about growing up and dream about doing (or at least not yet..)…so how did we discover that we could be “experts” in this area?

Well firstly, we have had a lot of support systems in our life. Family and friends who have loved and believed in us unconditionally. But the most important part of this support network has been the celebration of diversity and authenticity. The complete acceptance to BE OURSELVES. Although we’ve always been good students, got good grades, etc. there was never ANY expectation of what we should do for a living. There was no pressure to go to Medical School, to Law School, etc. There was always only the expectation that we would follow our hearts, do what we love, and do it well, to the best of OUR ability. Being ourselves, having fun, and being authentic have always been more important than trying to fit into any social boxes or expectations.

Interestingly enough, I think that one of the biggest reasons we are successful in what we do is because we practice these same values in our dance ability classes. It is not our goal to make every student who walks through our doors into a prima ballerina, or a super-star performer….instead it is our goal to support every person to discover the dancer inside of them, whatever that “dancer” may look like. Of course, we believe that everyone has the ability to dance. To us dancing means freedom of movement, using music and rhythms as inspiration to be creative, express emotions, and to …just…be…YOU!

Of course, there are MANY other pieces to the puzzle, students need guidance, structure, and the right kind of support. But overall, it’s amazing how much we achieve in our program through applying this basic philosophy. We change people’s perspectives. We teach volunteers to see every child as capable and able. We teach parents to see that their child CAN do things other kids can do.  But most importantly, we teach our dancers to celebrate themselves for who they are. Once this foundation is laid, the possibilities are endless. Including the possibility to become a prima ballerina, or a super star performer (regardless of what society may think your abilities are). It’s also about redefining what it means to be a performer….I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about individuals with different abilities who have pursued dance as a career (still to come!). 

Another thing that I think has allowed us to become “experts” in what we do is the attitude of life-long learning. We love to learn and truly believe that we have so much to learn from others…there is always room for improvement, growth, and development. What’s incredible is that our students are often our greatest teachers now. We learned in OT school about “following a child’s lead” to engage and connect with them. When you take this to the next level and make it your JOB to learn about a person, who they are, what their motivations, passions, and interests are…you WILL enable them to not only connect with you but also to discover their own role and place in this world, and to be proud and celebrate who they are.  It makes our jobs so interesting and fun to change how we do things and engage every dancer’s interest.

Many people think about physical barriers to dance classes when we talk about including dancers in community studios. But often times the biggest barrier is simply perspective. It’s often the limitations of the mindsets of dance instructors, parents, and dancers themselves which prevent a dancer from participating in the way that they could. Limitations that have been constructed through these “boxes” that society has created to try and fit people into. The best thing about my job is that EVERY dancer teaches me something NEW. I am constantly reminded that I need to check my assumptions, and change MY approach and think about how to connect and guide each dancer to be all that they can be; confident, proud, healthy, and happy. Our program is constantly evolving as we make strides in changing perspectives and learning more about possibilities and the “how-to’s”, one step at a time. What is most rewarding is watching our Dance Ability Movement community growing, with more and more individuals who GET this approach and are carrying it out in their own lives.

So if there’s one thing I can share with you as a “tip for success” it’s to always be a student at heart and look for the lessons to be learned from others. If you work with kids…your job depends on it!

One of our four-year olds quietly passed me a feather today cupped in both hands, during freeze dance, whispering “put this under your pillow…for the tooth fairy”. I graciously accepted it and with all seriousness thanked her.  Got to love the fact that she is thinking outside the box about some new ways to earn some cash! 

See you in the studio,

Miss Mallory

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Who’s teaching who?

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*If you haven’t read it, The Blue Zones is a great book about seven areas in the world where people live the longest. Interestingly, having a strong sense of purpose is one of the key ingredients to longevity! To me, this proves that my work as an OT is just as (if not more-so) valuable and life-saving as any doctor or medical professional out there. Go OT’s!

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OT Month Celebration!

We celebrated Occupational Therapy Month with our dance families and friends over the last weekend of October. Our goal was to raise awareness about what OTs do on a broader scale to help bring into focus our role as Occupational Therapists with The Dance Ability Movement program. Here are a few of the activities that were included in our day!

1) Our gumball guess was a big hit! Our Milton winner was only off by ONE gumball!

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2) We received a lot of great answers to our “Learn About OT” Questions; and two of our lucky dance mom’s won Tim’s Cards from the draw! Here are the correct responses:

Correct Responses for our Learn About OT Draw:
1) OT’s address participation in everyday living, including occupations related to self-care, productivity, and LEISURE
2) OT’s use a variety of assessment and treatment tools to enable individuals to participate in daily living. What are TWO of the OT Enablement skills?
Any of the following: Adapt, Advocate, Coach, Collaborate, Consult, Coordinate, Design/Build, Educate, Engage, Specialize
3) Occupational Therapist’s define OCCUPATION as (multiple choice) c) the things you need to do, want to do, or are expected to do that have meaning to you

3) Through coffee, juice, and treats we invited families and friends to celebrate our community and network with others. Dancers LOVED Miss Leah’s cupcakes!

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4) Leah, DA volunteer and Social Work student, facilitated submissions to the “I Have Something to Say” project through the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. This project continues to December, you can check it out here

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5) We showed our “Walk the Walk” television episode and Miss Mallory’s UOIT Alumni Adventures speech in the lobby as well and received great feedback from parents as well as a number of excited dancers “Look mom! That’s MY dance teacher on TV!”

6) We highlighted our incredible volunteers to introduce our new team for this year. Dancers had fun finding the pictures of their buddies on the trophy wall.

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7) The best part of the day was the smiles and excitement of our dancers….something that simply never gets old! Nothing else can better explain the reason behind what OTs do than watching one of our dancers in class.

Can you spot the Orange OT shirt? (proud dad!)

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We hope to make this an annual event. It’s perfect timing as our new season is in full swing and our new team is really starting to bond. We have witnessed such incredible growth in our dancers and volunteers over the first two months of class.

Do you have any suggestions for our event next year?

 

 

 

 

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Happy OT Month!

It’s been a while since we’ve had time to do some blogging! We’ve been busy updating our website and facebook page, and tweeting @theDAmovement!

We’ve finished three weeks of classes and are thrilled with the growing community of dancers, volunteers, families, and STUDIOS! We are now running weekend classes at Dance Elite in Milton (our fifth year!) and June Lawrence School of Dance in Mississauga!

October is a good time to finally start feeling settled into a routine, it’s lovely watching the fall colours emerge, and of course getting ready for some spooky Halloween fun! But for us OT’s it is also a chance to brag about how amazing our jobs are, and share all of the incredible things that OT’s do so that other’s can learn more about the hidden gem that is Occupational Therapy!

Here are some resources for you to share the OT love!

A resource we have developed to help describe how our role as Occupational Therapists works in The Dance Ability Movement program –>  Dance OT Flyer

A speech about Mallory’s journey since graduating from UOIT; becoming an OT, and discovering her Ikigai with Dance Ability.

Happy OT month 🙂

OT Alli Rock

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“Everyone welcome” – easier said than done?

We have always promoted our dance classes as Dance Ability classes for students of ALL abilities. We purposely tried to avoid other labels as much as possible, because for us we are opening our doors to dancers of any age and ability. We give anyone and everyone who wants to, the chance to dance.

Too often we see students who are “asked to leave” another studio….there are two ways to look at WHY this happens.

1) The first, is, because of the student’s differences (the way they learn, attend, behave, etc.) may not fit into the structure of the current class or they way the teacher teaches.

2) The second, is, because of the way the class is structured may not fit the way the child learns.

Which one is seen more often? Which one is easier to change?

The social model of disability indicates that it is society that often discriminates against individuals who have different needs or abilities.

In our opinion, studios should be providing classes for students of all abilities, because we have seen that our dancers thrive when they are supported in a way that enables them to learn and reach their own potential.

Unfortunately, it is easier said than done at times. We can’t “blame” the studios completely, because it sometimes does involve more skills and experience to fully support  students. However, we do believe that if studios, teachers, and students could adapt the right attitude and perspective, huge changes could be made.

A few things to consider when offering accessible/inclusive programming:

  • Instead of seeing a student with different needs as being the issue or problem, take a look at YOUR own approach to that student. What are your expectations and assumptions? How can you challenge these?
  • Don’t be afraid to ASK questions. Don’t assume a child CAN’T do something. Instead TALK to them. Ask them what they need assistance with before assuming they will need help. Treat them as you would when you are meeting any other person for the first time! They live with their disability, it is a part of their everyday reality, so don’t shy away from asking them questions and getting to know them. Give them time to respond, be patient.
  • How about asking their family for ideas? The child is likely part of a family unit of some sort, and these family members are hugely valuable sources of information – they are the EXPERTS on their child. Yes, you may have much more experience with dance and with teaching, but maybe it’s time to admit that you are NOT the expert on all levels. Using a family-centered approach and working together WITH the families makes it much easier to understand how to support a child.
  • Develop a relationship with the student first. Just like you do with ANY OTHER student. What do they enjoy? What are their favourite songs? We always strive to encourage students based on their strengths – well guess what? EVERY student has strengths – so USE them. Building trust and confidence is equally important for the development of all students.
  • I cannot stress enough the importance of discussing a child’s strength and their motivations. Your first question to a parent should not be “what is wrong with your child?”, but rather “what is it about dance that you think your child will love?”.  I cringe every time someone asks me “what do your dancer’s have?”. I know it is an honest question and people are curious. Sometimes I’ll answer with a few diagnoses because I know that’s what they are asking for, but honestly we don’t even ask parents for a child’s diagnoses when students register because that’s not what is important.  I always start by saying “We have dancers of ALL abilities, and they can all dance”. I always focus on how much fun it is to teach this class as it really uses all of my skills in terms of dancing, choreography, and thinking outside the box. Stop and think about how a parent might feel if their focus in society has always been on what their child can’t do. Think about what a difference it can make if people tried to approach and include their child as any other child.

In our class we not only strive to be inclusive but also to challenge each student to reach their own potential. We are lucky to be able to use our OT skills and experience to adapt the class and really analyze and re-think HOW things can be done. With our backgrounds and knowledge in safe moving and handling principles, sensory processing, and other techniques, we are able to incorporate this all into our approach in the class. We are developing new moves and following the child’s lead.

We had a wonderful moment in our Wednesday night class when I asked all of the dancers to find their spot in the line. As the dancers started to make their way to their spots, each moving in their own unique way, some of them “frog hopped”, some of them galloped, some raced with excitement. Every one of their volunteers began moving in the same way as their dancer. It was wonderful. THIS is what it means to follow a child’s lead! The students have bonded really well with their buddies because of this trust, and the laughter they can share. Everyone is included. It may not look like a “typical” dance class, but every student had a smile on their face and every student got to their spot and was ready when the music came on.

I recently heard a fantastic quote from a video about one of our dancer’s. Her mom said “We will continue to treat our daughter for WHO she is and not WHAT she has” 

It really is that simple. So why is it taking society so long to catch up?

Woman in wheelchair unable to use stairs "Way in, everyone welcome"

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