Ballet program helps children with special needs

National

A special program with the Milwaukee Ballet brings the power of dance to children with disabilities.

Not a wheelchair or any disability can stop someone from being a dancer.

That’s proven here through the Milwaukee Ballet and Children’s Hospital Tour de Force program giving kids with special needs the chance to stretch their muscles and minds in new ways as they work with professional ballet dancers and physical therapists.

“Our daughter Grace right away loved coming here,” John Schlueter said.

Five-year-old Grace Schlueter has a very rare disorder called Angelman syndrome.

“They’re missing one gene and they have great challenge coordinating muscle movement in their body,” Schlueter said.

Grace struggles with muscle control, and speech but not brain function.

She goes to school and is learning how to read, write, and communicate through an iPad.

Being able to participate in a dance class is priceless.

“It’s fantastic for special needs kids,” Schlueter said.

Grace’s parents, Beth and John, are helping lead worldwide efforts to find a cure for Angelman syndrome raising funds and meeting with doctors.

Clinical trials on a therapy that worked to cure mice are expected within the next two years.

Until the dream of a cure comes true though, they’ll revel in the smaller victories along the way, like ballet.

“Seeing joy in our daughter’s face, that’s certainly true for any parent, but especially when they have the extra challenges that someone like Grace has. It brings joy to us as well,” Schlueter said.

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