Newswise — Atlanta — A new study, presented this week at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting in Atlanta, shows that adaptive ballet classes provide functional improvement and social interactions for children with musculoskeletal and neurologic conditions. This type of arts-based adaptive therapy is a promising expansion to the already successful adaptive sports therapies.

“While great strides have been made in adaptive sports, there are still relatively few opportunities in the arts for people with disabilities, says Sarah Stauder, MD, a physician at the Medical College of Wisconsin and an investigator in the study. “Because of this, we wanted to evaluate the effect of adaptive ballet on the physical, emotional, social and academic function of children with physical impairments. The program is a collaboration between a children’s hospital and a metropolitan ballet company that brings together professional dancers, pediatric doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and children with physical disabilities for a series of dance classes,” she explains.

The goal of the study was to see if a weekly, 45-mintute ballet class with 15-minutes of ballet education over five consecutive weeks would improve the children’s balance, physical functions, social skills and overall quality of life. Eighteen children (17 girls, 1 boy) ages five to 14, took part in the class. Assessments of each child were performed before and after the series of classes using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (which measures physical, emotional, social and school functioning), the PEDI-CAT™ survey (which measures the ability to perform daily activities as well as mobility and social/cognitive function), and the Pediatric Balance Scale (which measures a child’s ability to balance). Finally, a questionnaire was used to assess each child’s success in achieving individual goals set for the class.

At the end of the five weeks, 94 percent of participants hit their individual goals for the ballet program. Dr. Stauder’s team also noted that PEDI-CAT scores improved after completion of the program, and the program was found to be most beneficial to participants who had lower functioning and quality of life at the beginning of the program. Finally, the researchers noticed an average improvement in balance among the participants.

“Adaptive programs like the one studied here give children the opportunity to participate in activities they otherwise would have no way to do so,” explains Dr. Stauder. “More specifically, these dance classes instilled a sense of pride and confidence in the children while improving their physical functioning and quality of life. Our study should open the door to more arts-based therapy for children. It is an effective and enjoyable way for patients to get the therapy they need. When kids are active in an activity that interests them, they naturally make greater strides and we were able to see this in their day-to-day function.”

As a next step, Dr. Stauder’s team plans to look at this program’s effect on the participants’ families – especially their parents. Dr. Stauder expects that parents will see an improvement in their own quality of life after seeing their children enjoy themselves in dance classes and make functional improvements, along with the additional support system and camaraderie they develop with the other parents.



The Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) is the only academic association dedicated to the specialty of physiatry. The AAP is an organization of leading physicians, researchers, in-training physiatrists, and others involved or interested in mentorship, leadership, and discovery in physiatry. The AAP holds an Annual Meeting, produces a leading medical journal in rehabilitation, AJPM&R, and leads a variety of programs and activities that support and enhance academic physiatry. To learn more about the Association and field of physiatry, visit and follow us on Twitter using @AAPhysiatrists. To learn more about the AAP's 2018 Annual Meeting, visit