Encouraging Social Skills through Dance

By Lee, Sang Bok; Kim, Jeongil et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, May/June 2002 | Go to article overview

Encouraging Social Skills through Dance


Lee, Sang Bok, Kim, Jeongil, Lee, Sang Hoon, Lee, Hyo-Shin, Teaching Exceptional Children


Special Education Around the World

Jin was 5 years old. He was diagnosed as having reactive attachment disorder. He showed several maladaptive behaviors, such as grabbing and chewing others' hair. He also displayed destructive behavior toward small animals, showed pushing and tantrum behavior when touched or hugged, enjoyed watching the rolling wheels of toy cars as a solitary behavior. He was usually alone at school, displaying out-of-seat behavior and running around in class. At home, he usually stayed around his mother, whom he loved to play with.

Oong was 6 years old. He was diagnosed as having developmental delay. He showed inappropriate response behaviors, such as shouting, hitting, and ignoring/no response. He also displayed temper tantrums and laughing alone. He was usually alone at school, as well as at home. He displayed inappropriate classroom behaviors including out-of-seat behavior and running around, shouting, hitting friends, and banging a table. Hyong was 6 years old. He was diagnosed as having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He showed pushing, kicking, and biting when his classmates tried interacting with him. He was noncompliant to the adults, being out-of-seat, talking out in class, and climbing the desk in class. However, he loved talking to and nagging his parents at home.

How would you work with children like these three active boys to encourage more appropriate, socially accepted behavior? What kinds of programs might help curb destructive behavior and promote positive, appropriate behavior? (see box, "What Does the Literature Say?").

"Doin, the Hokey Pokey"

Two American teachers in a Korean school used their expertise with song and dance to teach social skills to an inclusive group of kindergartners. The group included the three boys mentioned here, as well as seven children without disabilities who volunteered for the project; the program was a type of peer mediation (see box, "Method and Results").

Brief Description of Program

The program used dance, to the rhythm of English songs designed for young children. The two songs, the "Hokey Pokey" and "Put Your Finger in the Air," were designed to teach young children a body image. The dance program was followed by free-play time in an enriched naturalistic environment to give children opportunities of generalization. The songs were taught in English class to try to give all participants equality in verbal communication and to attempt to prevent withdrawal by some children who experienced language delays (Holzberger, 2001).

Because social isolation may cause intentional exclusion, developing effective programs for giving children a naturalistic environment for using social skills is an urgent issue. In addition, social isolation from early childhood could be indirectly linked to school bullying, physical or psychological harassment, and abuse as children grow (Ahmad & Smith, 1994; Batsche & Knoff, 1994; Olweus, 1993; Smith & Sharp, 1994).

Purpose of Study

This study had the following purposes. First, it was to discover whether the peer-group dance program in the English class increased the appropriate-- response behavior of the socially isolated children. Second, it was to find out if the behavior change could be maintained when the intervention was withdrawn for 2 weeks.

General Summary of Results

This study examined the effects of the peer-group dancing program for helping socially isolated children increase their appropriate behaviors and decrease inappropriate response behaviors. As the program was implemented, all the children showed behavior change in both appropriate response behaviors and inappropriate response behaviors, though the level of change was different in each child (see Figures 1 and 2). Also, the behavior change of two children out of three was maintained for 5 weeks after the program was withdrawn. The other child showed a slow ascending trend in his inappropriate behaviors after the program was faded. …

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