Ideal Dance

403 Butler Street

Pgh PA 15223

412-782-DNCE (3623)

Helping dancers grow in abilities, personal development, and well-being.

Special Needs Curriculum


What is it? The Ideal Dance Special Needs Program is a way for us to reach out to the community. The class offered is for students with Down Syndrome, Autism and other developmental disabilities.

This program is a great way for children with special needs to get involved in an extracurricular activity while improving motor skills, confidence, and socialization. Dance can also be a unique and effective way to reach students with special needs because it is nonverbal. Dance can help students gain balance between the two halves of the body, allow them to express emotion, gain muscle control and work through traumas. In dance, they interact socially through parallel interaction, which can be less overwhelming on sensitive nervous systems. Through the use of simple patterns, sequencing, and repetition, students will learn the basics of movement, rhythm, the fundamentals of ballet (such as the 5 feet positions), as well as reinforcing and practicing basic academic skills (letters, numbers, shapes, etc).

Requirements for Enrollment: Due to the length of the class and the number of staff members available, students should be independent in toileting. Also, due to being in close contact with other students and teachers, students should not be in a medically fragile state (i.e., feeding tubes, etc.). The class is designed for students ages 5 to 12 who have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Autism, or other Developmental Delays. However, if you feel that your child would benefit from this class, please do not hesitate to contact Ideal Dance so that we can help you place your child in the appropriate environment. 

Class Time/Curriculum:

Classes cap at 5 students

Classes will be blocked for 40 minutes

Each class will have roughly the same sequence, to encourage structure and predictability.        

Cost is $55.00/month

Dress Code: Students should wear clothing that is easy to move in. Students are welcome to wear traditional dance attire (leotard/tights for girls and black tights/white shirt for boys). Because of sensory needs and sensitivities, a strict “ballet” dress code will not be required. Ballet shoes are encouraged!

Performance: The students in this class are welcome to perform in the Ideal Dance annual summer performance, however, this is NOT a requirement. As the year progresses, we will evaluate whether or not the students and their parents would be comfortable in a performance setting.

Who will be teaching? Gretchen Shelesky will be the lead instructor.

** Grades 9-12 Enrolled Students interested in volunteering (National Honor Society hours, etc)

We can do a brief 30 minute training for anyone interested in volunteering. Please contact Ideal Dance for details.


Curriculum created by Cassie Dudley with input from Christine Pilewski and Gretchen Shelesky.