Local dance studio offers movement therapy class for special needs students

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - The ability to dance is a special gift and for a group of special needs students at Shelli Kruger's School of Dance, it's a form of treatment.

Two nights a week, all year long, the dance floor at the studio gets some special love.

"I just provide the stage, that's all I have to do," said Shelli. "They share their joy and love of dance throughout the community and it's a beautiful thing to see."

Shelli started teaching the movement therapy class eight years ago. She was a peer professional at a local school district and said whenever she needed to calm down a special needs student, she would distract them with dance and movement.

"That's what prompted the program. A lot of our students, when they first came were very shy and introverted but that's changed," explained Shelli.

Students like Jack aren't afraid to express themselves. "He just took to it right away and loved it," said Jack's mom.

She said he's always been a confident kid, but taking this class has boosted his social skills while helping him heal.

"Jack broke his elbow three years ago, a very severe break and he had to get surgery," explained his mom. "I was looking for therapy options and a friend of mine told me about this so I thought the movement would be good for him."

"We work a lot on their gross motor skills, but we touch on fine motor skills as well and then their social skills, that's actually the big fun part of it all," said Shelli.

An even bigger part is helping them become a part of the community. The group of 17 students has spent the last 8 years participating in the annual Buddy Walk put on by the Down Syndrome Association, and for the last six years they've been performing at the Aggie Women's basketball games.

"We want them to be independent. So we work with the Bridges Program as well because once these kids graduate high school they don't really have access to physical education anymore," explained Shelli. "So they can come here twice a week and get that exercise and movement they need."

Though Shelli teaches them the moves, every class they're teaching too.

"I just wish we would all accept each other the way they accept each other," said Jack's mom.

Another student we spoke with said that every time he goes to dance class he tells himself to be happy, be strong and to be confident. When he follows those steps, he feels happier about himself.

The movement class is taught Monday's and Thursday's at 6 p.m. Currently students range in age from 9 to 22 years old.

For the first time ever, this Saturday, the group will be performing at the Aggie Men's Basketball game.

The game starts at 3:30 p.m. at Reed Arena and you can catch their performance at halftime.