The Children's Institute Blog

The Day School Dinos Continue to Spread Cheer

Posted: May 02, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Some of the students grin with anticipation, their bright-orange team shirts glowing, as Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) Kimberly Blicha sounds the cue: “Ready, begin.”

“We’re The Day School Dinos and we’re here to say / we’ll be amazing every day,” they chant, waving their pom-pom’ed arms in unison. “So, clap your hands, stomp your feet and give a great big ROAR / Let’s give it up for the dinosaurs / Go DINOS!”

This year, the group’s fourth, a total of 17 kids from The Children’s Institute’s Day School will fine-tune their social skills and peer interaction as they learn about various types of dance and, of course, cheer at school functions such as pep rallies in the squad.

Patience Vasey, one of those students, is pretty clear about why she loves the group.

“It’s cool ‘cause I like dancing – I like the movement,” she said.

Hannah Berger seemed to get a kick out of seeing people practice dance. One type jumped out in particular.

“She really loved tap,” Kimberly said.

Kimberly and Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) Erin Simpson came up with the nucleus of the idea for a dance and cheer squad a few years ago.

“I’m a former dancer – years and years and years ago – and I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Kimberly said. “I think it’s so important for these kids to have adaptive resources, adaptive leisure. They all have something to offer.”

For Erin, it started with a student both she and Kimberly were training in the Handwriting Without Tears method. The student would work for Erin as long as music was involved.

“We wondered if we could strengthen the core muscles using a broad interpretation of the movement to help refine the fine-motor needed for handwriting,” she said. “It ended up being three girls that called themselves The Tail Waggers. We had a recital at the end of the year and things started to evolve from there based on what we saw.”

“I’m proud of each of them,” Erin added. “I’ve learned so much from this experience that I might not have seen otherwise. It really is great to be able to combine therapies in this type of activity.”

And they’re seeing an impact.

“Hannah, her reflexes are integrating better, Cassidy is able to handle anxiety better at the pep rallies,” Kimberly said. “Kaitlin is improving with her anxiety in group. She used to sit outside of class and is now more vocal during group, tries different dance styles, and is the classroom cheer coach.”

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