Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Autism-friendly dance classes expand in London

RADiateSpecialised dance classes for children on the autism spectrum in South and Southwest London have been expanded thanks to a funding boost from a charity.

The RADiate project – led by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) – will offer subsidised dance classes to children on the autism spectrum, including those with moderate to severe and complex learning disabilities, or who are non-verbal in more schools across South and South West London, thanks to new funding from the City of London Corporation’s charity, the City Bridge Trust.

RADiate currently provides weekly dance sessions in 10 primary special schools and mainstream schools with autism spectrum disorder bases within South and Southwest London, and one ‘hub’ venue at the RAD Headquarters in Battersea, that currently allows students from 9 schools who cannot support RADiate sessions onsite to attend.

The City Bridge Trust has offered RADiate a grant of almost £150,000 over three years, which will allow the RAD to consolidate and expand this project into more schools, and meet more students’ needs beyond the current 3 London boroughs of Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Southwark.

RADiate helps children with autism spectrum disorders or learning disabilities to grow and discover with the support of teaching assistants. Apart from benefiting creatively, participants also benefit educationally, physically and socially since the specific nature of dance particularly suits their more visual, non-verbal learning style. They learn all the action words found in dance by physically doing them, and use Makaton signing to enhance the rich language of storytelling. These sessions are led by specialist dance teachers.

The project has also been strengthened by the arrival of Michael Nunn OBE, co-founder of BalletBoyz, as ambassador for RADiate. “Dance, by its very nature, is a natural mode of language. It stimulates the mind and allows us to communicate both emotionally and cognitively in non-verbal ways,” he said. “These new funds will allow us to offer more children with special educational needs a tool for personal expression and social exploration with RADiate. My own son has autism, and I know how important initiatives like RADiate are in nurturing children in a creative environment at their own pace.”

The RADiate project has already begun this year and has a full quota of London schools enrolled. Anyone interested in registering their schools’ interest to join the project in the future can contact: [email protected]

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