Developing special talents
For Hannah Premia, dance has always been a part of her life, a place where she felt at home and could easily express herself.
Whether it was tambourine and flag dancing at her church, or hip hop and ballet classes, Hannah loved the freedom and movement that dance brought to her life.
And now the 22-year-old SFU student is hoping to help special needs children experience that same feeling while building motor skills and strength in the process.
"My 11-year-old sister Angelina is special needs and we've been working with her one-on-one for a few years," Hannah said. "We used to sing songs with her and we've seen such a great improvement with her and now she's starting to walk and move."
Hannah and her mother Helen Premia, who has been a teacher for 30 years and who currently runs a daycare in Surrey, are planning to offer a dance and music program specifically geared for special needs kids from kindergarden to Grade 12.
"This is something that has been in my mom's and my heart – to see special needs kids grow and develop skills that they have, because a lot of kids have the skills and ability, but for special needs kids it just takes a little longer to develop."
The idea is to run three different groups for low-functioning, medium-functioning and high-functioning children. Low-functioning students would work mostly with music and smaller movements, while the kids who can move more freely on their own could progress to more dancing and routines.
"Often special needs children are included in an activity but not actively involved," said Helen. "They are passive listeners, so that's when I started thinking about how I could get them to actively participate."
For her daughter Angelina, progress has been slow, starting with a game of musical chairs where Angelina only had to give a high-five to the other kids as they ran by her chair. As time went on, Angelina was able to stand in front of her chair and now can take a few steps – with a wide, proud smile on her face.
Helen and Hannah believe receiving love and encouragement is key for children's development, and with so many events and competitions for able-bodied kids, the pair thought decided to provide a venue for kids with special needs.
"With my sister, when we first started, she would have probably been in the low-functioning group, but we've been getting her into stand-up and sit-down songs and movements and it has really helped build her leg muscles and core muscles," Hannah said.
The goal is to progress towards performing at local festivals and helping kids believe in themselves.
"We just want them to have fun with dance and to grow in their specific needs and build on their strengths," Hannah said. "We just want to get the kids out there, really just to showcase them and show what special needs kids can do."
An information open house is planned for Aug. 17 at 12 p.m. at Triunity Martial Arts Studio, #4A-15685 Fraser Hwy. Depending on interest, classes will begin in September.
For more information on the program contact Hannah Premia at 777-877-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org