The people I spend my Sunday mornings with are a mixed group. Most are in wheelchairs, and quite a few are somewhere on the dementia spectrum. Besides the movement, it is the music that often helps them participate, singing along to old, familiar tunes.
Several years ago, I participated in my first Dance for PD training. Besides learning how to teach a Dance for PD class, we heard from neuropsychiatrist Melissa Frumin, whoexplained Parkinsons to us. Not only did she understand Parkinsons from the perspective of a medical person, but also as a caregiver for her father.
Several months later, at a subsequent Dance for PD workshop, the bulk of the weekend workshop was spent sharing movement ideas with one another to broaden our movement repertoires.
I know there are many people who do something similar, be it through Dance for Parkinson’s, Let Your Yoga Dance for Special Populations, chair yoga or approaches I don’t even know about. It would be quite something if all of these teachers could connect with one another to learn and share!
As far as I can tell, though, there is no conference for movement professionals who work with people living with Parkinsons, MS, stroke, Alzheimer’s or illnesses with a similar impact.
Here is my hope for a Gather to Move conference:
- Gather together the many LYYD for SP teachers, chair yoga teachers, Dance for PD teachers, volunteers and teachers of other modes.
- Invite medical professionals to demystify the diseases that our student population lives with.
- Create an environment where we can share movement and engagement tips to enhance our toolkits.
- Provide a space where we can take demo classes to experience alternative approaches that might work for our students.
- Invite our students to talk about what works for them.
- Invite family and professional caretakers to share tips for positive engagement.
- Wherever the conference is held, offer free classes to the local community as part of the conference. (Both of the Dance for PD workshops I took – one in MA and one in NY – included a Dance for PD class with students who are part of a regular Dance for PD group. We, the students in the workshop, were both participants and observers, and both classes concluded with conversation, so that the students in the class helped to teach us, the students learning how to facilitate a class.)
- Invite other groups (such as ARTZ (Artists for Alzheimer’s), Music & Memory, massage therapists, and similar entities that exist for any of the other diseases) to provide workshops. This would help us to develop a more rounded understanding of the many ways our students can thrive.
Essentially, such a conference would educate us as teachers, help build a network of movement professionals with a specific focus, and empower us to return to our students more informed, aware, and better able to facilitate movement, smiles and a more positive experience for each of our students.