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  • Megann Horstead

Channahon dance studio serves children with special needs

Updated: Jun 8


Channahon resident Erin Wegner said she’d never previously heard of a dance studio in the area offering a course designed specifically for children with special needs.

So when she learned of Dance Beat Studio in Channahon and its offerings, Erin knew it was an opportunity for her daughter, Jaclyn, that was too good to pass up.

“I figured this would be perfect for her, since she might have a harder time in a regular class with other kids,” Erin said. “She needs a little more help. She’s learning direction and everything right now. [She’s] still learning to speak.”

Dance Beat Studio is new to the Channahon area and is located at 24453 Eames St. The studio opened its doors to the community in late August.

“I’ve taught for 13 years, so I’m used to the differences in children, but this is a little unique going into it,” said Dana Schuster, who is the lead instructor for the special-needs dance class. “There’s a huge age range more than in a typical classroom. It’s unstructured. It’s been fun to play with them and teach different gross motor activities and fine motor activities, as opposed to working strictly on academics. So, it’s the fun side of teaching.”

Schuster said she doesn’t think many dance studios in the area have classes specifically for children with special needs.

“My daughter has always danced,” she said. “I’ve been to a couple [of] studios. There’s just not a lot of opportunities for kids with disabilities.”

Classes typically consist of different activities that involve gross motor, balance, listening skills and more.

Minooka resident Bethany Hale said she’s glad she heard about the dance class. She said she originally learned of it through Facebook.

“The girls have been in it since the very first day, and they love it,” she said. “They seem to have fun. They know when it’s time to come. Today is dance class with Ms. Dana. So, they’re very excited about it.”

At the Hale home, the music of Taylor Swift is usually heavy in rotation for Olivia, Jordan and Bella. Bethany said they enjoy dancing at home.

“Currently, we’re in a Taylor Swift phase and a lot of Disney songs,” Bethany said.

Bethany said she appreciates the staff members who help put on the class every week.

“They’re very engaged with the kids,” she said. “They’re not afraid of what can come with special-needs kids. They’re not afraid of the outbursts and the tantrums. … They just kind of roll with it. They’re very patient and fun, which is what the kids love.”

Erin said her daughter appears to enjoy the class.

“I think she likes it,” she said. ”She’s nonverbal, so she doesn’t say anything about the class, but I know she likes being here because she’s usually in a very good mood at the end of the day. She likes coming here.”

Jaclyn is often found dancing and enjoying music at home.

Erin said she was hoping to find an after school activity for her daughter, and she thinks she’s found the perfect fit.

“Dana is qualified for kids with autism, so this was something we couldn’t pass up,” she said.

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