Disabled Students Dance to Health

Pupils with disabilities at Waihopai School are twirling, twisting and jumping their way through new dance classes aimed at helping to improve their physical and mental wellness.  The classes involve choreographed dance routines, swiss ball and hula-hoop activities.

Waihopai School teacher aide and dance teacher Lou Horo said the activities helped students with their co-ordination skills and brain activity.  “They’re excited about the music,” she said.  “You lose yourself in it.”

Horo has been teaching dance for about 40 years and has had her own dance studio, Jazz Time, for 14 years.  She had been working at Waihopai School as a teacher aide for a year before blending her two roles for the programme, Music and Fitness Boot Camp.

A group of four students, aged 5 to 10 years, were in the studio yesterday to show off their moves.  They are working towards a performance for the community to show off what they have learnt.  It was great for the students to get the opportunity to be involved in something like this, Horo said.  “I think they grow as a person and build confidence.”  It was not only the students who benefited from the classes.  Horo said their parents and family members enjoyed seeing them have fun and treated like everyone else.

Waihopai School Park Syndicate team leader Jacqui Rai said research showed dance and music opened up pathways to the brain.  The classes were “really, really good” for the students learning, Rae said.  “Its all about fun and fitness,” she said.  “The boys are eager to be here.  They love the fitness of it.”

The school would review the programme at the end of the term to see whether there was significant improvement in the students and to see whether there was a need to expand the programme, she said.

Park Syndicate also had a hydro-therapy pool students used for relaxation and swimming to keep them active, as well as the Southland Riding for the Disabled programme and Special Olympics, she said.  “I think Southland has amazing schools (for special needs learners) and fabulous support from the ministry,” she said.

By Rebecca Moore, taken from the Southland Times 1 March 2017.