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New program helps kids with disabilities hit dancefloor

It’s often declared that humans were born to dance. But while anyone can get shaking and moving behind closed doors, dance schools have long had an aura of exclusivity to them, leaving the less coordinated and those with disabilities behind.

One of Australia’s biggest universities has sought to change that.

Earlier this week Deakin University launched Australia’s first comprehensive digital resource to promote inclusion in dance for children with developmental challenges, as well as a directory of inclusive dance schools.

AllPlay Dance includes a suite of online resources to help children, their parents and dance teachers ensure dance schools are an inclusive space for kids of all abilities.

The initiative was funded by a $600,000 grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) through its Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) grant program, which aims to make the broader community more inclusive for people with disabilities.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO says AllPlay Dance underlines the university’s community focus.

“Programs like AllPlay Dance perfectly demonstrate how quality research can lead to real-world outcomes that can change lives. AllPlay Dance will mean more children with a disability can participate in regular activities in their local communities, while Deakin researchers will be able to gather more evidence to show why group participation in physical activity is important for the development of all children.”

AllPlay creator and Director of the Deakin Child Study Centre, Professor Nicole Rinehart, says that the initiative is all about opening up opportunities to all children who wish to express themselves through dance. “Children with developmental challenges, such as autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, language disorders and intellectual disabilities, often feel their disabilities are a barrier to participating in group activities.

Dancers from the Elite and the All play program at the Launch of AllPlay.

“Our research shows that being part of these kinds of group activities has such a positive impact on children’s physical development, and their social development, too.”

Launch attendees were treated to a performance from eight young dancers with cerebral palsy, alongside their young teaching buddies. The group then took part in a ballet masterclass with Queensland Ballet Artistic Director and Mao’s Last Dancer author, Li Cunxin.

“Queensland Ballet is thrilled to collaborate with Deakin University on such a life-changing and impactful program,” says Li.

“We firmly believe in the power ballet has to create positive change, provide opportunity and bring people together. Our involvement in programs such as this furthers our aim to share the gift of ballet with as many people as possible.”

AllPlay Dance is an expansion of the ground-breaking AllPlay program, a national project to make the world fit for all kids. It was launched last year with AllPlay Footy, a collaboration with the AFL and Moose Toys to help encourage more kids with disabilities to join their local NAB AFL Auskick program.

Australian dance schools can register to the AllPlay Dance web directory of inclusive studios, allowing parents to find schools offering programs that can be tailored for children with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy or autism.

For more information about AllPlay Dance, visit www.allplaydance.org.au.

Feature photo (L to R): Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet Li Cunxin, AllPlay dancer Bridget Healy (10) and her buddy, elite dancer Morgan Renolds. Credit – Donna Squire, Deakin University.



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