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Therapeutic Day School to launch dance therapy program

Glendale Heights – Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School is expanding its expressive therapy offerings by adding a dance therapy program for the 2008-09 school year. Also known as movement therapy, dance therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process that furthers the emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of an individual, according to the American Dance Therapy Association. It focuses on the connection between the mind and body to promote health and healing.

The Therapeutic Day School’s program was designed by Sabrina Washington, a former behavioral health counselor at the school who is pursuing a master’s degree in dance movement therapy and counseling from Columbia College in Chicago. Washington, of Villa Park, also served as a substitute teacher at the school and taught dance as part of a performing arts class in the school’s summer school program.

“Dance therapy will be a welcome addition to our art and music therapy offerings,” said Lisa Grigsby, director of Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School. “We’ve found that our students are quite responsive to expressive therapies because they nourish their creativity and improve their self esteem.”

Modern dance therapy traces its roots to the 1940s, when dance instructor Marian Chace was asked to work at a federal psychiatric hospital in Washington, DC, after psychiatrists found that their patients received therapeutic benefits from attending her dance classes. There are now more than 1,200 dance therapists in the United States and abroad.

Students who take dance therapy at Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School will begin with movement warm-up activities and other exercises that will encourage nonverbal communication. Many exercises will center on interactive games and activities followed by discussions in which students share their experiences and learn from one another, Washington said.

“Not only does dance therapy advance awareness of the body and of movement, but it also promotes self-control and stress management,” Washington said. “Dancing in front of your peers can be scary because it’s outside your comfort zone, but slowly it can cause people to express themselves more easily as they deepen their mind-body connections.”

Designed for children with learning disabilities and emotional and psychiatric problems, Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School was founded in 1995. Elementary through high-school age (grades 3 through 12) students earn normal academic credits while addressing their therapeutic goals. Along with traditional individual and group therapy, the school uses recreation, pets, music and art activities with certified therapists to help with physical, social and emotional growth.

The school is staffed by a caring group of teachers, nurses, social workers, therapists, clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist; there is one staff member for every three students. Its enrollment is approximately 120 students at north (main) campus in Glendale Heights, 40 at the west campus in North Aurora and 30 at the south campus in Glen Ellyn. The school is funded partly through local school districts in the six-county area that are reimbursed by the state and partly through Adventist GlenOaks Hospital and GlenOaks Hospital Foundation.

The 2008-09 school year starts Aug. 27.