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Physio Jazz founder Charlotte Foster Williamson (right) has made information about her program for special-needs students available online for other teachers to use as a resource.
Photo courtesy Atlanta Dance Central

Trial and error helped Atlanta Dance Central founder Charlotte Foster Williamson develop Physio Jazz, a dance and fitness program that emphasizes functional movement for students with Down syndrome, autism, and sensory processing disorders. And now she’s sharing her knowledge with other dance educators on a new website, physiojazz.com. Information on class structure and learning challenges is free, and teachers can email Williamson questions.

In 2006, Williamson began teaching creative movement to students with Down syndrome. When parents requested more technique and a recital, she struggled to find online teaching resources. Testing what did and didn’t work with her students, and consulting with an Emory University physical therapist, helped her create the curriculum, which benefits students physically and mentally. “Because we’re focusing on fundamental movements, they go through PT more quickly,” she told Dance Studio Life. And families like the social aspect; one parent told her how nice it was to run into another studio family in town and say, “See you at dance.”

“My goal with the website is to encourage people to say yes to special-needs students,” she says. “It will take time and work, but it’s worth it.”