Street dance group ‘Autism with Attitude’ have made history as the first special needs dance team to qualify for the United Dance Organisations (UDO) World Championships in Glasgow.
Members of the group have developed their skills since attending Hillingdon Manor School, in Uxbridge. Teacher Jonathan Baron said: “The SEN dance world is currently very small and in fact they were the first dance team with special needs to take part in the event.”
Hillingdon Manor is an Outcomes First Group centre of excellence in education and development, for children aged five to 19 years with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC).
The school is delighted with its success and staff are now helping the dancers hone their skills ahead of the August event as well as prepare for their role as ambassadors, showing what people with autism can achieve.
Teachers at Hillingdon say they have found that pupils with autism respond well to the structure and discipline of dance as it can help those who struggle with other forms of communication to express themselves. Students are expected to work hard and the lessons are physically demanding building muscle memory, balance, body awareness, coordination and spatial awareness.
The secret of their success, according to Jonathan Baron, is hard work, preparation and practice. Autism with Attitude had performed in shows and made videos previous to the qualification event so there was no doubt about their talent or commitment but Jonathan needed to be sure that they could manage a competition in unfamiliar surroundings. He needn’t have worried. With support from the management and staff at the Manor in the run up to the competition, they took it all in their stride.
“It is a dream come true for me,” said Jonathan. “As a dancer myself I've obviously done competitions but it's quite emotional taking a group of young people with autism into this arena. We keep setting them fresh challenges and now they are taking the mainstream world by storm. This is just huge, they are making history, acting as envoys for all those with special needs around the country.”
The group will also get to compete at the UDO European Championships in Kalkar, Germany in May 2018.