Whole Child Integration
Whole Child Integration refers to the body and mind benefits a particular activity, in this case ballet learning through the Schlachte Method™, brings to every child, no matter his/her abilities or disabilities, by developing and enhancing specific physical and mental skills that feed reciprocally one another and integrate to form a whole functional being. In other words, dance encompasses the whole child, because movement activates the neural wiring throughout the body, making the whole body the instrument of learning. All aspects of development – neurophysiological, emotional, motor, cognitive, perceptual, social, aesthetic and metacognitive - affect all the others and must be integrated with motor development when children attempt to communicate creatively through movement expression.
When learning ballet through the Schlachte Method™, the entire brain is involved and both brain hemispheres are impelled to work as students are instructed to exercise both sides of the body and to think about the whole body. Additionally, through various sensory inputs (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.), and the observation, planning, execution, and repetition of movements accompanied by music, ballet assists with motor planning, increases body awareness, improves the vestibular system (balance and movement), enhances proprioceptive skills (body position and where the child is in relation to others, in the room and how his body is moving) and contributes with sensory integration (interpretation, processing, and integration of sensory stimulus using different senses and whole body involvement).
In addition, classical ballet technique requires rising onto the balls of the feet or toes, turning out the leg at the hip socket and sustaining high leg extensions to the front, side and back, among other physical manoeuvres. Constant repetition of these exercises not only develop gross and fine motor skills, but also enhances flexibility and builds considerable strength in specific areas, most notably in the hip, abdomen, lower leg, ankle and foot. Since ballet exercises require the use of good posture and alignment, ballet helps to promote good posture and create awareness of good alignment. As core and abdomen muscles are developed and strengthened through ballet practice, balance and coordination are improved as well. Said improvement in balance and coordination allow children to better run and play, thus enhancing their self-confidence and social skills.
Ballet learning also involves memory skills and sequencing, since it compels children to memorize steps and perform sequences of movements, allowing students to do complex moves by walking through steps slowly (breaking down the moves into smaller steps), encode the steps (names), repeat and practice sequencing (this step/activity first and then this other step/activity).
Concerning emotional intelligence and social skills, it is known that ballet also requires a lot of concentration and focus. When taking a ballet class, the student needs to be aware of the many specific movements of the hands and feet that are being learned, to concentrate on each movement and the placement of the legs and arms. This increased focus helps the child to improve attention span and listening skills, to self-regulate, to decrease inappropriate behaviors, and to be patient and disciplined. Ballet study helps children to develop new skills and to realize what their body and mind are capable of and that they are able to accomplish something that seemed very difficult at the beginning, which involves as well gaining self-confidence.
Furthermore, ballet classes and performances provide the child a context in which to socialize, to share experiences, to learn and practice skills in relating to others (by learning ballet etiquette or participating in collaborative activities, for example), and to activate “mirror neurons”, which play a role in helping a person to understand the behaviors of others, to learn new skills by imitation and to increase empathy.
Also, being ballet not only a form of exercise but also an artistic expression, it helps to relieve stress and promotes creative expression. The focus and concentration required to execute the movements relaxes the mind. With the aid of imagery, stories, sounds, words and games, ballet also teaches and encourages the child to express feelings and emotions by means of facial expressions, gestures and body movements.
To ease and make enjoyable the process of learning ballet and the acquisition of the above described skills that make possible the whole child integration, the Schlachte Method™ employs diverse teaching tools (visual, auditory, vestibular, tactile, and emotional means) through the use of DVDs with set curricula, pre-established classroom rules and routines, space delimitation, visual schedules, props, specially-composed music, sequenced movement learning, body and facial mimes, mirrors, interactive activities, stories and games, the assistance of trained volunteers, verbal and physical prompts, behavioral modification techniques, etc.