Classical ballet classes may help improve balance while enhancing social skills in school-aged children with cerebral palsy (CP), according to a new study.
The study, “Pilot Study Of A Targeted Dance Class For Physical Rehabilitation In Children With Cerebral Palsy,” was published in the journal SAGE Open Medicine.
Classical ballet has been used as an intervention for physical rehabilitation in children with CP. That is because its training principles for postural control with trunk stabilization, static and dynamic balance, and focused movement control of individual joints may serve as physical therapy with beneficial effects for children, parents and therapists. However, the outcomes from this exercise have not been measured.
The objective of the study was to properly evaluate the clinical outcomes before and after a targeted dance class (TDC) that uses principles of classic ballet to improve balance and upper extremities (arms) control in children with CP.
The study included 12 children with CP, with ages ranging from 6 to 15 years-old, with Gross Motor Function Classification scores II–IV, medically stable and able to follow two-step directions, with no history of surgery or seizures within the past six months.
Six children were assigned to the control group and the other six to the TDC group. All children continued to go to school and received physical and occupational therapy during the day, but the TDC group had ballet classes for one hour, three times a week during one month. Classes took place in a familiar environment, such as the school’s gym or auditorium, after school classes.
Researchers applied the Pediatric Balance Scale (PBS), designed to evaluate functional static and dynamic balance), and the Quality of Upper Extremity Skills Test (QUEST) which evaluates upper extremity function). They did so one week before the study, within one week, and one month after the end of the dance classes.
Contrary to those in the control group, children in the TDC group showed significant improvements in balance control (assessed by the PBS) immediately after the intervention started and one month after the study. No children, however, had signs of improvement in the QUEST (measuring upper extremities).
“The children who participated in the TDC did not view the ballet classes as therapy, but as an after-school activity that was enjoyable and social,” the authors wrote in their article. “The use of after-school time for a diverting physically challenging activity such as a dance class is a common able-bodied experience; thereby, our TDC provided a normalizing experience for children with CP. The TDC environment was not stressful since the classes occurred in the participants’ school with familiar peers,” they said.
The study had two main limitations: The inclusion of children with different physical limitations, and the small size of the group. So, more studies with larger groups are necessary to confirm the preliminary results obtained in this study.
“In combining targeted strengthening, balance and training paradigms through dance, the child participates and learns group dynamics and social skills,” the authors concluded. “Improving the child’s perceptions of therapy as a fun group activity enhances rehabilitation outcomes.”