Dance helps children cope

Dance helps children cope

Creative performance serves as therapy for youngsters suffering dyslexia

Lydia Ma, 13, is having fun dancing in the studio. She is rehearsing for a musical performance called 'Her Magic of Life', to be staged later this month at the Sai Wan Ho Civic Centre.

'I enjoy performing a lot. I'm a happy person and I want to share my happiness with others,' says the Form One student.

Watching Lydia dance will not give you the slightest idea that she is dyslexic. She was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in kindergarten, and she has learned to live with it. 'I have difficulty memorising things. My mum helps me with school work and revision. I need to ask other students to remind me of the dance steps.'

Another dyslexic student in the group is Ben Lin Kai-chun who is in Form Two. He will be singing in the show.

'I like singing. My favourite singer is Eason Chan,' says Ben.

'I find it hard to memorise the lyrics, but I'd use some images and stories to help me remember the lines. It's a method I learned in other classes.'

Flora Mok Wai-har, social worker and certified neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner at Caritas Jockey Club Integrated Service for Young People (Tak Tin), says: 'The biggest difficulty for these children is coping with language and text. Reading and writing can be hard for them, and this greatly affects their school performance and interpersonal relationships.'

Mok says on average, 100 families with dyslexic children go to them for help each year. Each family is given two years of help. 'We believe dyslexic children have other talents, and we encourage them and their parents to find and pursue those talents.'

That is why she collaborated with GrandJete, a professional dance school, to offer students like Lydia and Ben the chance to take part in a creative performance. The Caritas project, called 'Lively Children, Happy Parents', offered places for 40 dyslexic children to take part in this month's performance.

Mok says finding the right partner, someone who knows how to handle children with special needs, is important to give the group a positive experience.

Watching a GrandJete show and meeting the director made Mok realise she had found the right person.

Gloria Sit So-lan has more than 20 years of dance experience and experience working with children. She also has a personal experience. 'I was diagnosed as dyslexic when I was little; I couldn't read properly. I didn't understand why at the time, nor did my mum, so it was tough for me,' says Sit.

'But I found dance and it changed my life. I believe dance can help children build confidence and dignity. When you get the steps right or find yourself performing on stage, you get a huge sense of satisfaction. This is something children might not get from the education system which puts too much emphasis on exam results.'

Mok says: 'Dyslexia is a condition that stays with a person for life, but it can be improved with training. If parents accept their children's condition, the children will improve much more quickly.'

Lydia has long accepted her condition, thanks to her parents' support. 'They tell me dyslexia is not a problem; I just need to make more effort and spend more time to learn,' she says.

To learn more about Caritas projects for children with special needs and the show, visit ycs.caritas.org.hk/jnj/

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