ABC Cayuga: S.A.M.E. a creative movement and dance program for all children
EARLY CHILDHOOD

ABC Cayuga: S.A.M.E. a creative movement and dance program for all children

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Meet Christina Van Ditto-Warter. A busy wife and parent to three children ages 2 to 16. She has been a professional dancer and teacher of contemporary and modern dance for decades, but recently you will find her dancing in her dining room, which she described as a “makeshift dance studio” for her daughter Gia and herself. Gia is a bright and joyful 2-year-old who is affected by autism and sensory processing disorder. Christina shared, "As I danced with my daughter Gia, in our home I become more informed about her needs, I recognized the benefits, beyond fun, that dance and movement provided. As we twirled, jumped and bounced, not only did I see her ability to focus improve, dance and movement provided the vestibular and proprioceptive input she was craving. It became an easy way to integrate social games and encourage verbalization.”

These experiences with Gia led Christina to envision and create S.A.M.E, an inclusive movement and dance program. S.A.M.E is an acronym for Soul and Mind Evolution. Christina shared that her vision is to create a safe space for children who are affected by autism, sensory processing disorder and other developmental delays.

"The name of the program represents the capacity for metamorphosis and change," she said. "I began to see my daughter’s physical, mental and emotional state similar to that of a butterfly within its cocoon. A once isolated and introverted little girl, in her own world, she has been slowly shedding her chrysalis and spreading her wings. My husband and I are not trying to shed her of her autism, but rather to help her reach her greatest potential. We respect that beautiful butterfly that she is.”

Christina, it seems, believes that every child is a beautiful butterfly and that movement and dance can be a way to help each child take wing!

The classes will include parents or caregivers and the goal is for all participants to express themselves freely through movement and dance. S.A.M.E. classes will not be technique-focused, but instead be engaging, fun and supportive.

Christina plans to offer two different classes:

Movin’ and Groovin’ Monarchs: A 30-minute dance and creative movement class designed for both caregiver and child. It’s an opportunity to bond, relieve stress and encourage communication and mind body connection.

Bouncing Butterflies: A 30-minute dance and creative movement class for all those children who love to bounce, whether it be with their legs or bums! Within this class, your child will use a child-safe trampoline as we explore movement, dance and social games!

Classes will be held at the Play Space at 63 Genesee St., where Gia and Christina come to play and which shares Christina’s belief in providing inclusive, engaging programs for young children and families.

In closing, Christina shared this very fitting quote: "We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.” — Albert Einstein (an autistic)

For more information about S.A.M.E., or to register for a class, you can visit soulandmindevolution.com or email Christina at christina@soulandmindevolution.com.

Elizabeth Stilwell is the director of operations at ABC Cayuga's Play Space. For more information, visit abccayuga.org or playspaceabc.com, or visit the Play Space at 63 Genesee St., Auburn.

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