Autism with Attitude street dance group from Hillingdon Manor School, Uxbridge, made history today when they qualified as the first special needs dance team to qualify for the United Dance Organisations (UDO) World Championships in Glasgow 24-27th August 2017 and the UDO European Championships in Kalkar in Germany in May 2018. Hillingdon Manor School is an Outcomes First Group centre of excellence in education and development for children aged 5 – 19 with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC).
Hillingdon Manor School is delighted with its success and staff are helping them both to hone their dance skills and to prepare for their role as ambassadors, showing what people with autism can achieve. Now Autism with Attitude is all set to represent the UK at this forthcoming international event.
Many of the young people have developed their skills since attending Hillingdon Manor and probably would not have had the chance to enter a dance competition if they had been at a different school. Their teacher Jonathan Baron said: ‘The SEN dance world is currently very small and in fact they were the first dance team with special needs to take part in the event.’
The school has found that children with autism respond well to the structure and discipline of dance and it can help children who struggle with other forms of communication to express themselves. Students are expected to work hard and the lessons are physically demanding building muscle memory, balance, body awareness, coordination and spatial awareness.
The secret of their success, according to Jonathan Baron, is hard work, discipline, preparation and practice. Autism with Attitude had performed in shows and made videos so there was no doubt about their talent or commitment but he needed to be sure that they could manage a competition in unfamiliar surroundings. He need not have worried. With support from the management and staff at the Manor in the run up to the competition, they took it all in their stride.
‘It is a dream come true for me,’ said Jonathan. ‘As a dancer myself I’ve obviously done competitions but it’s quite emotional taking a group of young people with autism into this arena. We keep setting them fresh challenges and now they are taking the mainstream world by storm. This is just huge; they are making history, acting as envoys for all those with special needs around the country.’