Focus: An inclusive opportunity

Legacy Dance instructor Hannah Sukraw helps Genni Strong, a 4-year-old with autism, work her way across the balance beam during a class geared toward students with autism spectrum disorder.

A class at Legacy Dance and Gymnastics in North Platte has provided new opportunities for children with autism this summer.

Shae Sanchez is the mother of Genni, a 4-year-old who has taken the class for six weeks. Sanchez said Genni was diagnosed with autism when she was 2½.

Sanchez said she enrolled her daughter in the class because Genni had not been in any sports or activities before. She said she thought this would be a good opportunity to see if her daughter would like to get involved in dance, sports or other activities.

“The first class was a bit of a challenge for Genni,” Sanchez said. “Now it has been six weeks and she absolutely loves it.”

Sanchez said she wants to let her explore different activities. She said for now her daughter gets excited for each dance class and can’t wait to get into the studio.

Sanchez said the teachers at Legacy Dance and Gymnastics have been great.

“The teachers that Genni works with have patience and kindness with her,” Sanchez said “They are determined to make sure she has a great experience.”

Hannah Sukraw is the head teacher for the class and has two assistants. The current class consists of three students, between 4 and 12 years old, allowing the instructors to work closely with the kids.

Sukraw grew up using dance as therapy for her cerebral palsy.

Sukraw said a big part of running the class is having structure each week. The 45-minute class is divided into three sections: a 15-minute warm-up in the studio, 15 minutes of gymnastics in Legacy’s mini gym and 15 minutes of dance in the dance studio.

Sukraw said this class requires more assistance than a typical class. She has help from two assistant teachers to make sure the class stays on task.

Teachers work with every dancer in the class differently, as they all have different reactions. Sukraw also gets input from parents to learn what gets the best response from a child. This effort, however, is worth it.

“Every class I see amazing growth in every dancer,” Sukraw said.

During a class Tuesday night, Sukraw and her assistants used different tactics to keep each student engaged. This sometimes included taking a break with a dancer to look at dinosaurs for a couple of minutes or letting a dancer jump on the trampoline for a bit.

“You have to get to know each kid on a personal level,” Sukraw said.

Sukraw has plans for the class to expand in the fall by having more sessions and breaking the class up based on age. She said she would love to see to see the students advance to the point where they can perform in recitals.

The class started in June and has three classes a month.

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