Video: Ballet’s Emphasis on Repetition Helps Autistic Kids

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TIME Video

This week, TIME Video features the dance program Ballet for All Kids, which was created for children on the autism spectrum.  “A lot of these kids with autism, they’re trying to communicate something and they have all this stuff inside and they don’t know how to express it,” says the creator and teacher of the course, Bonnie Schlachte. “My job is to help them find a way to express it.”

The program, which is based in reseda, a Los Angeles suburb, incorporates traditional ballet exercises. The repetitive quality of that kind of exercise — the routine of movement — is often soothing to children with autism or Asperger syndrome (though the class is open to children with a full range of disabilities). Schlatche and devotees of her method say the exercises in turn can help improve abilities that don’t come easily to these children, including eye contact, reciprocity and social interaction.

But most of all, the classes offer a welcome respite from being the odd kid out. “When I’m here, I’m not a therapist, I’m a ballet teacher,” said Schlachte, who is also an experienced behavioral therapist. “And when they’re here, they don’t have disabilities. They’re kids.”