Specialised dance classes for children on the autism spectrum have been expanded in London. The RADiate project – led by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and with generous new funding provided by the City of London Corporation’s charity, the City Bridge Trust – will offer subsidised dance classes to children on the autism spectrum, including children with moderate to severe and complex learning difficulties, and those who are non-verbal in more schools across South and South West London.

The project’s development will also be strengthened by the welcome arrival of Michael Nunn OBE, Co-founder of BalletBoyz, as Ambassador for RADiate. Michael says: ‘Dance, by its very nature, is a natural mode of language. It stimulates the mind and allows us to communicate both emotionally and cognitively in non-verbal ways. These new funds will allow us to offer more children with special educational needs a tool for personal expression and social exploration with RADiate. My own son has autism, and I know how important initiatives like RADiate are in nurturing children in a creative environment at their own pace.’

The RADiate project – established in 1990 – currently provides weekly dance sessions in ten primary special schools and mainstream schools with Autism Spectrum Disorder bases within South and South West London, and one ‘hub’ venue at the RAD Headquarters in Battersea, that currently allows students from 9 schools who cannot support RADiate sessions onsite to attend. The City Bridge Trust has offered RADiate a grant of almost £150,000 over three years, which will allow the RAD to consolidate and expand this inclusive outreach project into more schools, and meet more students’ needs beyond the current 3 London boroughs: Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Southwark.

RADiate helps children with autism-spectrum disorders or learning difficulties to grow and discover with the support of teaching assistants. Apart from benefiting creatively, participants also benefit educationally, physically and socially since the specific nature of dance particularly suits their more visual, non-verbal learning style. They learn all the action words found in dance by physically doing them, and use Makaton signing to enhance the rich language of storytelling. These sessions are led by highly-experienced specialist dance teachers.

The RADiate project has already begun this year and has a full quota of London schools enrolled. Anyone interested in registering their schools’ interest to join the project in the future can contact: courses@rad.org.uk