Dance at PEP Allows Students to Be Themselves

Dance at PEP Allows Students to Be Themselves

A Typical Session

“Inhale positive thoughts,” says Dezi Marlow who leads dance therapy at PEP Prentiss Autism Center. He takes a deep breath in and raises his hands slowly over his head. “And we’re gonna exhale. Release the weak,” he continues, while bringing his arms back down to his sides.

The students stand in a circle around him, audibly inhaling and exhaling. They look calm and relaxed. A moment before, they were excitedly jumping up and down, some of them charging around the room in circles as they danced to “Good Times” by Chic. Marlow is helping them to understand how movement impacts their feelings and how they can use it themselves to regulate their emotions.

At PEP, where teacher-counselors work with young people who often experience big emotions, it’s no secret that movement matters. Dance, which PEP has incorporated into its programming for some students, is one more way PEP is ensuring students have the outlets they need to self-regulate.

Over the last several years, Marlow, an independent licensed therapist, and owner of D.A.N.C.E. Therapy LLC, has partnered with PEP to bring his dance program to different Day Treatment Centers. This year he is working PEP Greenview and PEP Prentiss.

“The students really look forward to it,” said Lea Kromer, clinical supervisor at PEP Prentiss. “Not only is it an opportunity for them to get up and move, they really relate to Dezi. He understands our students’ needs and has been effective in helping them to regulate and to learn new skills. He’s positive and encouraging and they genuinely have a lot of fun. It’s a safe space for them to just be themselves.”

Dance in Action

Check out this video of a dance session at PEP Prentiss. Marlow went around the circle asking each student to lead the group in a dance move. Their faces and enthusiasm say it all.

A video screen capture of students dancing in a circle.
PEP Prentiss students take turns leading dance moves during dance therapy.

Learn More

To learn more about dance at PEP or what is happening at PEP’s other Day Treatment Centers visit PEP’s website.  Contact Nicole Molnar, clinical coordinator, at 216-361-7760 ext. 110 or via email to see if a student in your district may be a good fit.

*Please note, referrals are made through school districts. Interested parents or caregivers should contact their school administrator.*

An earlier version of this story has been corrected to indicate that the program offered by Dezi Marlow is a therapeutic dance program rather than formal dance therapy.