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ABSTRACT Canfield, Jennifer Morgan The Effects of Dance on Gross Motor Skills and Strength in Students with Down Syndrome. Unpublished Master of Arts Thesis, University of Northern Colorado, 2019. The purpose of this study was to determine if weekly participation in a ballet class improved upon the gross motor skills of students with Down Syndrome. This study is important because the student participants all showed growth in their gross motor abilities as well as overall strength and physical functioning. When students with special needs are regularly exposed to dance, certain physical skills that are normally more challenging for them, improve, including gross motor functioning, increased strength, better coordination, and an increased ability to balance. This research can be used to justify the expansion of inclusive and adaptive dance opportunities in public schools and private studio settings for the special needs student populations. Dance should be accessible to everybody, and everyone exposed to dance gains important skills that can be transferred to various areas of their lives. All children should have equal opportunity and access to dance education in both the public school and private studio settings. The student participants in this study consisted of a group of children ages seven to fourteen all with a Down Syndrome diagnosis. The students received weekly creative dance and ballet instruction for one hour from January to April 2019. During this time, data was collected bi-weekly in the form of observational rating scales by the researcher where growth in student physical skills were observed. The student participants’ parents also shared that they witnessed improvements, at home and at school, in their children’s abilities to maintain attention and focus to tasks, better behavior, and increased confidence, as well as newly built friendships outside of the home and school.

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