Scoliosis, Osgood-Schlatter Disease (OSD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder DCD)
Things students expect us to understand
Head Office has to deal with many questions from teachers asking for solutions to problems, many of them relating to medical problems with names unfamiliar to us. As dance teachers our pupils and students expect us to know everything, we are not doctors or physiotherapists, however a modicum of simple information about the most common problems is always a help and allows us to understand how best to handle them. This information is to give teachers basic information of what some of these problems are.
What is it: It’s a sideways curve of the spine. Any curve in a normally straight spine when viewed from the side will show a slight roundness on one side of the (Thoracic Spine) upper back and a slight inward curve in the (Lumbar Spine) lower back.
How to spot it: The pupil/student will have one shoulder higher than the other, one shoulder blade will stick out more than the other and one hip will be higher than the other. In class a pupil/student with scoliosis will be unable to keep the hips level when performing a chasses, or plie, one hip will always be higher or give the appearance of sitting or pushing onto one hip. Kicks or grands battements are another area where the curve causes a problem, one leg will swing freely, the other leg will have a more restricted action, this will make the kick on one leg appear much higher than the other.
What to do: If the child is unaware, then they need to mention it to the GP next time they go to visit. If they have already been diagnosed, care must be taken not to over emphasise exercise towards the curve. For example side bends; If the curve is towards the right, then restrict the amount of repetitions of an exercise towards the right. It is not something a teacher should be afraid of, the principle teacher at my school has a pronounced Scoliosis and has achieved Fellowships in Ballet, Theatre Craft, Modern Jazz, Tap and Freestyle.
Unless it is very severe, this is not usually a problem that needs Reasonable Adjustment, therefore students will be entered for examination in the usual way.
Osgood-Schlatter Disease: or OSD
The student/pupil will have seen a doctor who will have diagnosed the problem, it’s ‘what is it’ and ‘how do I deal with it’ that’s the teachers problem.
What is it: The name sounds awful, but it’s one of the most common problems in adolescents, it really isn’t a disease at all, it’s an overuse injury, quite painful while it lasts but usually goes away after 1 or 2 years when the bones and muscles stop growing. It’s an inflammation of the bone, cartilage or tendon where the Patella tendon (the tendon that encapsulates the knee cap) attaches to the (Tibia) the shin bone. All bones and muscles during the adolescent growth spurt do not grow at the same rate, so as small a difference of 1 millimetre in length of bone or muscle will put an uneven pull on the Growth Plate (the layer of cartilage near the end of the shin bone) where the Patella Tendon attaches, thus giving rise to the inflammation. It’s more common in boys than girls but now girls are playing more sport then the problem in girls is increasing, the more physically active a child is the more likely they are to have it.
How to spot it: A small but painful lump just below the (Patella) knee cap.
What to do: The problem will increase and decrease depending on growth, sometimes the pain will be quite intense, sometimes it will disappear or be in remission. With OSD when there is inflammation during a growth spurt, the pain gets worse with exercise, during that period the pupil/student will have to rest or restrict activity (no elevated exercises or running) Teachers may find that after the warm up, a good stretching programme for hamstrings and quadriceps is quite beneficial to students with OSG before starting class. Some students with OSD find that shock-absorbent insoles in dance shoes help, by reducing the effects of impact when performing elevated steps.
What is it: There are many types of Dyslexia and this is just a generalisation. The problem will probably have been discovered at school, then officially diagnosed at a clinic or hospital. The dance teachers problem is ‘What is it’ and ‘How do I deal with it’ Sometimes when this problem is first encountered it can be confused with Dyspraxia or (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or DCD) this will be covered on a further paper. Most teachers are familiar with the term Dyslexia and the fact that people with the problem have difficulty reading and writing, though in some cases it can affect dancers keeping time to music.
How to spot it: On the plus side; pupils/students with this disorder are quite often bright, intelligent, articulate, talented in art, drama, music and sport.
On the down side; they often have a short attention span, difficulty knowing left from right and poor self esteem. In class they are often the class clown, using clever diversion tactics to cover up or draw attention away from their problems. They have difficulty remembering sequences, amalgamations and dance arrangements. Sometimes pupils/students can hear and count to music when listened to on its own, they can also dance a short sequence of steps without music perfectly well , the problem occurs when they try to put the steps to the music. Messages that register the music in the brain are fine, but adding the complication of steps to that music the messages become confused, the result being steps that are out of time with the music.
What to do: Try to use a demonstration along with verbal instruction. The teacher marking time to the music will help with steps being in time with the music.
If the problem is severe, a Reasonable Adjustment form must be filled in giving clear details when entering a student with this condition for examination.
Dyspraxia: or (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder DCD)
What is it: Sufferers of this condition are often highly intelligent but have great difficulty carrying out co-ordinated and purposeful movement. Sometimes there is also language difficulties causing problems with pronunciation of words. Diagnosis of Dyspraxia or DCD is usually done through a series of tests carried out at a hospital. Though often this is a hidden problem that people try to ignore and it’s thought that possibly 1 in 10 children in the UK have it to some degree.
How to spot it: The pupil or student who has poor balance affecting co-ordination. It is a problem that affects the large muscle groups in the body responsible for walking, jumping, hopping and of course co-ordination of steps. Muscles can seem hard and tight restricting movement or in small children soft and floppy and not strong enough to carry out an action. DCD is a faulty passage of messages from brain to the muscles responsible for an action.
What to do: Always conduct a well thought out warm-up, making sure that the circulation and breathing is increased but not to the point of exhaustion. Pupils/students with this problem are usually better on a one to one basis rather than in a class where they appear not to be able to concentrate. Unlike Dyslexia, pupils/students with DCD the giving of verbal instruction regarding steps and movements to music then repeating and repeating this instruction is a challenge and can over time help. This condition can improve with age, a former student of mine is now a Nursing Officer at a Teaching Hospital in Sheffield.
If the problem is severe, a Reasonable Adjustment form must be filled in giving clear details if entering a student with this condition for examination.