Special needs middle schoolers prepare to cut up the dance floor

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Special needs middle-school students in Lee County are getting ready for their first-ever big dance.

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Special needs middle school students in Lee County are getting ready for their first-ever big dance.

The dance is designed to encourage kids to embrace self-expression. More than 100 students are expected to go to Laurence Dunbar Middle School on Thursday, Jan. 21, for the dance in the school’s gymnasium.

Until the big day arrives, students will continue to prepare their dance moves.

“I always practice my moves, every day and every night!” eighth-grader Chase Payton said.

The dance is the idea of Dunbar behavior specialist Jennifer Kuehl. She believes dance opens up the students and allow them to express themselves.

“I’ve seen awesome growth of our students in the classroom in school-wide events,” said Kuehl. “They’re excited to be here.”

She also says the dance will introduce students to other children just like them and encourage the kids to be open to new experiences and new people.

One teacher at Dunbar Middle agrees, saying dancing has allowed students to overcome obstacles in the classroom.

“It allows them to express their personalities,” said Amber Davis. “Some students who are quiet, are dancing all over, after not saying a word, all day long.”

On Wednesday, about 30 students at Dunbar practiced various dances in a classroom. Some children were shy at first, but by the fourth or fifth song, they were moving all over the floor.

Davis allots 30 minutes of every day for dance practice for her students. She said she is surprised by her students’ enthusiasm.

“One of our students who hardly ever speaks today was singing along. And I didn’t even know he knew the words!” Davis said.

“I feel happy when I dance with my friends,” said sixth-grader Michael Patrick.

Kuehl has invited special needs students from seven other middle schools in Lee. Parents and sponsors of the event are also invited to attend from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

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