Teaching A Special Needs Dance Class Changed My Life

Teaching A Special Needs Dance Class Changed My Life

I thought I would be teaching these kids, but little did I know they would be teaching me.

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My Saturday mornings, over the past couple of years, haven't started like most people's and for that, I am truly blessed. My aunt, Jennifer Allender, started a dance class for individuals with special needs around 12 years ago. This class is held every Saturday morning. I decided to start going and helping out with the class when I was younger and I am so glad that I did. Here's the backstory of why my aunt was inspired to start something so amazing. She said, "when I was a junior in high school competing at a gymnastics meet for Midstate Gymnastics, a group of girls came out to perform for everyone — a floor exercise routine. They were wearing their teams signature leotard and the brightest smiles. These little gymnasts were all girls who had Down's Syndrome."

She knew she wanted to become a special education teacher after that. While working as a special ed teacher she realized she wanted to give her students more activities outside of school. Thus began the outstanding dance class that she said would "give children and individuals of all abilities the chance to dance, a moment to call their own through performance opportunities and most of all, a love for the art of dance."

Yeah, I know, she rocks!

It has been so amazing to have the opportunity to watch the kiddos in the studio grow throughout the years and not just in their dancing abilities. I get to witness them overcome their difficulties and blossom in every aspect of their lives. Seeing their beautiful personalities is incredible and it makes me so happy to get the opportunity to help them. Because of them, I have gotten to spend my Saturdays with a humongous smile on my face.

I thought I would be teaching these kids but little did I know they would be teaching me.

These kids have taught me determination, to stick with something until you get it (even if it's hard).

They have taught me to not take life so seriously, to just have fun with it.

They have taught me compassion, how to love everyone you meet.

They have taught me patience, that everything takes time.

These dancers are my heroes and I am so glad I have them in my life.

They never fail to amuse me or teach me or make me giggle.

They are the reason I am the way I am today.

Getting to grow up helping in these classes has been a life-changing experience. I am beyond grateful to have these dancers in my life and I cherish every moment I get to spend dancing with them. It hurts my heart that I am away from them on Saturdays, now that I am in college. We can't always pick the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it and who we dance with.

P.S. Don't worry besties I'll be back for your BIG show!

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I Stopped Taking My ADHD Medication And It Made Me 10 Times Happier

Many people with ADHD choose to medicate to manage their symptoms, but that choice is not without any negative side effects.

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When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

I was in the third grade and falling behind in nearly every subject and my teachers were losing hope. I endured several weeks of testing before being diagnosed, but even more weeks of medication testing after I was diagnosed. Once it had been determined that I responded positively to medication, I began taking Concerta.

I took Concerta every day from fourth grade on to my freshman year of college.

About every three years, I would start taking a stronger dosage and every time my dosage increased, I experienced more and more negative side effects of the drug.

Common side effects people experience when they take ADHD medications are altered personalities. The meds make you feel more reserved and uncomfortable. You are constantly on alert and this makes one feel very self-conscious. Another side effect of ADHD meds is suppression of identifying personality traits and strong emotions. Many people, including myself, report feeling robot or zombie-like. All of these side effects disappeared when I stopped taking Concerta.

Around the beginning of my first year of college, I considered stopping medicating.

College is a fresh start and I was beginning to wonder what not medicating would feel like. I had become so used to the way Concerta made me feel, I did not know what it felt like to truly be myself. So, after being medicated from 2008-2017, I stopped taking my ADHD pills.

At first, I didn't feel much of a difference, but as time went on I began feeling happier. I found myself to be more outgoing and social. I have always been considered a warm, approachable person, but this was different. People began commenting on how often I was smiling, my friend group was expanding, I began feeling more confident in myself and speaking in public.

During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I began experiencing the symptoms of my ADHD on a whole new level. I was having extreme difficulty paying attention in class, trouble completing all my assignments in a timely fashion, forgetting simple things, and more.

I felt like my grades were suffering and I was worried not medicating was compromising the quality of my education because I no longer had pills to help me manage my symptoms, so I started medicating once again.

At the start of my sophomore winter semester, I began taking Concerta again in hopes my educational experience would improve. While school was easier to manage, I could not stand the way the meds were making me feel. I experienced intense migraines, loss of interest in any/all activities I once enjoyed, I stopped eating, and my friends often commented on how dull I seemed. Due to all the negative side-effects of starting my medication again, I got rid of them for good.

Over a year has gone by since I first made the choice to give up my medication.

School is a lot harder and paying attention takes significantly more energy, but I would not trade any of my ADHD struggles for the feeling of finally being free from the methylphenidate based drug used to treat my disorder. For the first time since third grade, I feel like myself and I am proud of who I am and who I am becoming.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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