Suzy Arredondo and her parents, Jaime and Jeremy were Emily Finch’s inspiration – and motivation.
Little Suzy is friends with Emily’s daughters. Emily, owner of Dance 101 in Tempe, Arizona, thought the movement of dance might bring Suzy joy and maybe even help her a little. Emily couldn’t have been more correct. When 12-year-old Suzy started dance lessons at the tender young age of 3, the possibilities of using dance to help special needs children were revealed. Emily saw something else that gave her joy: she saw Jaime and Jeremy’s faces light up too.
Suzy doesn’t communicate verbally and the expression using her entire body that dance enables is amazing for her.
Jaime, Suzy’s mom, didn’t dance as a child and she didn’t really have a point of reference for understanding how the creative expression of dance could impact her child.
When Emily made the dance class suggestion, the Arredondo’s didn’t really know what to do or expect. But with Emily’s encouragement, they decided to encourage Suzy to try it.
Everyone can dance.
Emily lives and breathes this. She watched her daughters’ friend, Suzy, and wondered what being part of a dance class would do for her. This idea was genius as far as the Arredondo’s are concerned.
“Jeremy and I have watched Suzy blossom. Her joy is more than inspirational. It’s motivational to those who see her dance – especially us,” says Jaime Arredondo. “Emily’s program at Dance 101 has been an amazing catalyst for her transition since age 3. Much of that is due to the inclusiveness with which Emily approaches everything she does with special needs children.”
Just one of the group.
Special needs children are not in ‘their own’ classes but are in classes with ‘the typicals.’ This is important for Suzy but it is also important for her fellow-students, teaching them an invaluable life lesson that everyone is not perfect. Emily has created an environment [link to 17Tips blog post] that is totally a no judgment zone and leads, within that environment, by example.
“Suzy’s classmates are amazing. They include her and treat her no differently than they treat one another,” notes Jaime. “And Emily absolutely does everything that she can to make Suzy a part of all class activities.”
There are some changes that Emily has made. The music, for instance. For Suzy it’s important that the music not be too loud. And Suzy has an aid who helps her. Emily worked with the aid to give her enough freedom to help Suzy but not disrupt the class or Suzy’s experience.
“It’s very important to all of us – me, Jeremy and Suzy – that her participation does not detract from the other dancers’ learning experiences. Emily has helped to make that happen,” adds Jaime.
A special year.
This first time Suzy will participate in Dance 101’s recital. There are lots of sensory components to be aware of in helping Suzy’s experience to be a positive one. There are lights and a stage and an audience that Suzy hasn’t encountered before. Suzy’s aid will help her dress and get ready for her ‘numbers’ so Jaime and Jeremy can watch from the audience.
“Suzy loves dance, loves being part of the group and is so excited about the recital. We’re just not sure she understands the show part of it. She’s come so far from her first lesson that we’re confident her first recital experience will be amazing. If there is one thing we have learned – and advice we give to parents with children whether they’re ‘typicals’ or special needs: Don’t limit your children because of your fear,” Jaime concludes. “Let them try.”
Jaime and Jeremy have learned so much in their experience with Suzy that they are sharing with others through a foundation they founded and illustrating it in the way they encourage and support Suzy. They back it up when they say “Let them try.” The couple’s non-profit, The Suzy Foundation, helps special needs children become active.