It’s a unique program building confidence and a brighter future.

The School of Dance in Ottawa has been granted $200,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to expand the DragonFly Programmes, a dance and academic camp for children with Down Syndrome.

“We want to reach as many people as we can and ideally start a conversation nationally about how Canada is educating people with Down Syndrome”, says program director Barbara Roblin.

The program focuses on connecting the body and mind through dance and academics to discover how each individual child best learns.

“There is a very powerful brain body connection, in fact learning is a brain body partnership”, says Roblin, “for people with Down Syndrome who are often very visual, often very physical, this is a unique and very successful approach with them.”

DragonFly started four years ago when Roblin, an educator, teamed up with The School of Dance Artistic Director Merrilee Hodgins.

 “I see changes in every day I teach the students” says Hodgins, “they’re much more confident in how they calculate things like going on a bus by themselves and we now have young people taking planes who are met by grandparents on the other end. That’s magic! Four or five years ago that wouldn’t have been possible.”

Hodgins and Roblin study each child to help determine how they learn and how they should best be educated.  That information is then turned over to the child’s parents and teachers and they work together as a team to set up the best curriculum for the child.

And the program is showing results, some children are being moved into mainstream classrooms, able to keep up with their fellow students.

“Research suggests singing improves speech in people with Down Syndrome.  We understand in strengthening their bodies we’re strengthening their minds” says Roblin.

Medical advances mean children with Down Syndrome are living longer, the program aims to help educators keep up, “we need to offer good education so that they have the skills to have meaningful adult lives”, says Roblin, “to hold down jobs and live independently, all the things that any parent would wish for a child.”

DragonFly Programmes run throughout the year, for more information contact The School of Dance at