Lighting up children’s faces
Smiles, laughter, and learning new dance moves is how Kiersten McMaster would describe the participants’ experience at the Cerebral Palsy of British Columbia Association of BC’s Dance Without Limits program in Richmond. She believes that the Richmond dance program is beneficial for the children since it gives them a creative way to express themselves, keeps them active and allows them to interact with fellow participants.
Kiersten, who has a Masters of Physiotherapy (MPT), volunteers at the program each week helping to facilitate . “We have a strong focus on partner dancing so the children experience what is to “lead” as well as to “follow”. I believe that this is valuable to the children as it teaches them how to interact with others.”
She gets real satisfaction when the students master a new dance step and when she sees how proud they are of themselves. The participants are at the program for 10 weeks learning a variety of different dance techniques. The 26-year-old Tsawwassen resident loves how they are able to express themselves through creative dance by making up their own dance moves.
Building a sense of belonging
“I can’t think of a time where the children didn’t rush into class with a smile on their faces. I definitely think that the children feel included in the class, which is largely because of the partner dance skills that they learn.”
Kiersten believes the dance program is the foundation for building a sense of belonging and community. The University of Queensland graduate monitors the class and ensures that everyone gets a chance to dance with each other. The positive interaction builds their confidence and improves their communication and social skills with others.
She believes it is important to have adapted programs for people with disabilities since it demonstrates to children that they can have fun and be active at the same time. In addition, she points out that they can interact with other people who may or may not have disabilities and learn new ways to communicate and express themselves. Unlike other dance programs, this program is adapted to individuals’ physical needs and abilities.
A more educated society
Kiersten has a wealth of experience working with individuals with cerebral palsy. While doing her Masters’, she did a research assignment that involved interviewing adults about barriers to participation in different areas of the community.
“I think that programs like Richmond dance are great resources for people with cerebral palsy to get out in the community and have fun,”
Society is starting to get a better handle on the struggles that people with disabilities face, she feels, and is becoming more understanding, although more needs to be done in terms of community access. Education is vital for people in society who discriminate, or don’t understand the crucial nature of the disability. In Kiersten’s observation, children are more accepting, and society needs to learn from them to become more inclusive.
CPABC is proud that we are contributing to children being active and learning new dance moves in an inclusive environment. Thank you, Kiersten, for being a part of it and lighting up children’s faces!