Adaptive Dance at Hubbard Street

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May 3, 2018

Hubbard Street offer free adaptive dance classes through the Autism Project started in 2014 and the Parkinson’s Project started in 2008, making it the oldest Parkinson’s dance program in the Midwest. These classes allow students of all ages and abilities to see themselves as we see them: dancers and choreographers.

We spoke with Parkinson’s Project student Bob Heineman and Autism Project parent Keesha Tyler about what makes Hubbard Street’s Adaptive Dance Programs special.

Parkinson’s Project: An Interview with participant Bob Heineman

Bob has been participating in the Parkinson’s Project for six years coming regularly for the past three, originally introduced to him by a friend from church who is a longtime Parkinson’s Project participant with her husband. Bob hasn’t missed a class in three years.

Could you walk me through what happens in a typical class?

First, we focus a lot on our breathing and posture. I’ve struggled my whole life with having good posture so this part of class has been very instructive for me. We then start to move intentionally with different parts of our bodies; a movement of the wrist, elbow, or fingers to get us loosened up before learning a routine. The instructors do such an incredible job of introducing things that we can do, putting them together, and repeating them often enough that we start to really get it.

Has the Parkinson’s Project created a sense of community for you?

The instructors here consistently and lovingly encourage community interaction, getting to know each other, and making sure that we make a personal connection with our classmates. The Parkinson’s community is a very forgiving one, they accept us with our flaws and that’s pretty wonderful.

How have you been able to bring what you do in class into your daily life?

The intentionality of “getting out and doing.” Remembering that coming to a class makes a difference, having the opportunity to build community makes a difference, and dance itself, which was an unknown to me, really makes a difference.

 Autism Project: Interview with Keesha Tyler, parent of Autism Project student Sanai Tyler.

Keesha and Sanai have been coming to Autism Project classes for the past four years since the program began in 2014. Keesha first heard about the classes through a teacher at Sanai’s school.

Could you describe a typical class?

What’s really nice about the Autism Project classes is that there is almost a script of how the class goes each week. The instructors use pictures to show the kids what is going to come next, which is really important for an autistic child. I also really like that at the beginning of class there is an introduction circle where the kids go around and say their names. It allows them to share eye contact and be connected to their classmates.

Can you talk about the importance of each student having a teaching assistant with them during class?

The teaching assistants really help the kids get much more out of the class. Sometimes the kids may hear what the teacher is saying but they may not respond and do what the teacher is asking them to do. Having that one-on-one person to help re-direct them or move them in a certain way is very helpful.

What would you want other families thinking about getting involved to know about the Autism project?

I would probably tell them to have the patience to see it through. It takes time for the kids to build up the knowledge that this is a safe and creative space where they can go to dance and have fun. You also have to remember that you’re working with a child at their level and you can’t expect a major transformation overnight. You have to have patience and trust that they are learning skills that will translate into other things.

Learn more about our Parkinson’s Project classes here and our Autism Project classes here.

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