Movement is integral to wellbeing and dance can be a great way to enjoy movement. Dance can be a form of expression, a way to communicate and for some, a way to escape. Children and adults with severe and profound intellectual disabilities and PMLD (profound and multiple learning disabilities) can be given the opportunity to explore movement and dance with the appropriate support. This guidance shows how you can offer a dance experience, building from tapping and experimenting with movement to co-creating a choregraphed routine. It can be carried out standing or seated.
What you need
- Music and a sound system
- Water to rehydrate
As needed for comfort and safe positioning:
- Pillow, blanket
- Beanbag, bed or chair
- Something for you to lie or sit on to be next to the person
Guidance and instructions
- Take time to ensure the person participating is comfortable and positioned in a way that is safe and enables them to move most freely – this could be on a beanbag, a chair or standing up.
- Select a piece of music – this may be by the person’s favourite artist, band or from a preferred genre of music. Offer them the choice if they are able to indicate their preference.
- When the music starts begin to tap the rhythm on yourself somewhere that allows them to see you tapping, i.e., in their line of sight.
- Tap the person gently on an area of their body they are happy to be tapped, e.g. hand, arm, leg to match the beat of the music.
- Check-in with the person – are they happy to participate? Do they like the music? Are they happy for you to touch them?
- Avoiding rushing – tap a different part of the body, if the person is happy for this.
- Increase the pressure of the tapping movement so that your whole hand gently presses down onto various parts of the body in turn. As well as feeling the rhythm, this may increase their awareness of their body.
- Check throughout that what you are doing is welcome. If not, change what you are doing or stop.
- Show the person that they are welcome to move any part of their body whilst they listen to the music.
- Be observant of even the smallest of movement, mirror their movement – i.e. if they move their hand, you move your hand, they move their leg, you move your leg, or you may just notice a finger twitch, a mouth movement or an eye movement.
- Be observant for whether the person mirrors what you do too.
- Allow for takingturns in who mirrors who if this is something that the person engages with.
- Begin with large, over-exaggerated movements so they are easily visible to the person mirroring you.
- If the person is happy for you to help, you could aid them in movements they may find harder to sustain, such as holding their arm up. Always check that any movement will not cause any pain or discomfort.
- Always go at the person’s pace. Don’t rush.
- You may want to play with your movements, for example, make them less exaggerated and see what effect this has. When a person has a limited range of movement, mirroring their small movements may be a way of celebrating and validating those actions and initiations.
- You may like to support the person to choreograph a short routine together using movements the person has demonstrated so far. For example; hand movement, finger twitch, followed by an arm being lifted and a movement of the head.
- When the rehearsal process comes to a natural end perhaps ask the person to ‘perform’ the piece for you to observe (if appropriate). The person may like to perform their movements for you or other people.
- Video if appropriate for the enjoyment of watching it back and sharing with others.
What to observe, assess and record
- Check-in with the person on a regular basis – How are they feeling? Do they seem to be OK about being touched? Would they like a break? What do their facial expressions, movements, vocalisations tell you? If you are able to use video, this will help you here.
- Make any written notes as soon as possible after the session, whilst it is still fresh in your memory.
© Leighanne Healey, PMLD Lecturer – BA (Hons), QTS, (In 2021 studying for MEd in SPMLD at The University of Birmingham)
Email: [email protected]
Created June 2021