Learning / dance

Virtual dance classes for children with disabilites

By lowie trevena, Monday May 4, 2020

A Bristol-based dance school providing an inclusive community for disabled and sick children has been supporting families during lockdown.

Flamingo Chicks, which offers classes in Bristol and further afield, has its head office in Westbury Park and is offering the chance for children with additional needs to explore movement and dance despite lockdown.

“Families with disabled children have been telling us how difficult they are finding lockdown, both in terms of getting their children to exercise but also home schooling,” says Flamingo Chicks founder Katie Sparkes, whose daughter Poppy has cerebral palsy.

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As a result, Katie quickly changed the way the charity offered sessions. Normally held face-to-face, Flamingo Chicks’ classes are currently being held online.

“It’s physically and mentally demanding to be a full-time carer, and many are also juggling work without being able to access childcare support,” Katie explains. “It’s a recipe for extreme levels of stress placed on families.

“With many of our children requiring constant and close supervision and facilitation, filling each day is a challenge.  Whilst there is an overwhelming amount of materials online, there is little that’s accessible for disabled children, particularly in terms of exercise.”

Flamingo Chicks has partnered with science charity Lightyear Foundation to offer a  blend of movement and science, which hopes to support families both in terms of their child’s physical and mental wellbeing but also keeping up their school work, with each session linked to the national curriculum.

Children across the world have been taking part in the virtual classes. Image: Flamingo Chicks

Since the charity started six years ago, it has welcomed more than 3,000 children through its doors. Since going online, its classes have had more than 40,000 views.

Katie has had a flood of emails and messages describing how valuable the resources are. Additionally, professionals are using the classes in children’s hospitals, hospices and special educational needs schools with children of key workers.

“We hope that our classes will provide people with truly meaningful experiences that not only brighten their day and provide joy in the moment, but also empower them in their lives,” says Katie.

The charity is asking for donations to keep its classes running, as they are currently offered for free. May 100 is challenging 100 people to do something active during the month of May to raise funds, with Katie saying: “It can be big or small, from walking one kilometre to climbing Ben Nevis via your stairs!”

“Dance and movement provide a way for disabled children to not only develop their physical skills, such as balance and co-ordination, but to also express themselves in different ways, increasing their confidence, and enabling them to reach their full potential,” says Katie.

“We get the sense that disabled children and their families don’t feel alone; they feel connected again and part of something.”

Find out more at www.flamingochicks.org and donate at www.localgiving.org/charity/flamingochicks

Main photo: Flamingo Chicks

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