JABADAO in Special Needs settings

Direct, nonverbal, playful ways to support children and young people with learning disabilities, communication and interaction difficulties and complex additional needs

 “The intrinsic value of having a "voice", being understood and making a contribution valued by others - having a place in the world - cannot be underestimated, and here is a way in which every child can have this experience." Jayne Johnston - Learning Support Team. North Yorkshire Special School

The JABADAO approach

Our work with people in special  needs began thirty-two years ago when we ran the first Arts Council funded dance project with people who had a learning disability. It was the project that launched JABADAO - and it pioneered a strand of work that has developed widely amongst many dancers and community artists since. We have led courses and projects throughout.


Currently, we work alongside teachers and learning support staff in early years, primary and secondary settings, offering projects and training to deepen communication and find the movement that prompts and supports development, communication, comfort and wellbeing. 


We use an intensely focused 'somatic' approach, but hold play at the heart of everything we do.


Somatic, for us, means starting with the body and discovering the intrinsic - value of sensory motor experience (rather than what it can achieve for some other area of learning). We start with the movement (small or large) and the energy (quiet or boisterous) that each baby, child or young person presents - making that the meeting point, the conversation, the learning between us. We also offer a developmental movement perspective to bring additional understanding to why a child moves as they do --and how to help them reach for the next stage at their own pace.


The work provides a gentle, respectful way of exploring many areas of the curriculum through sensory means. 

JABADAO at Kingfisher Community Special School, Oldham

primary school with three units:  emerging Learners; conceptual & continuing learning slkills; autism specific learning environment


We have worked alongside Nic Found, Lead Practitioner for Creative Learning, for many years supporting her to implement the JABADAO approach aross the whole school with some very positive results The Tig has visited Kingfisher twice.


Ofsted: ... teachers’ extensive use of sensory ..... and developmental movement therapies, as well as intensive interactions, is having an excellent impact on pupils’ health and well-being. 



JABADAO at High Park School, Bradford

a specialist school for children & young people with Communication and Interaction Difficulties aged 3 to 19 


JABADAO leads a rolling programme of training, the staff make use of this in all classrooms. Currently we are exploring the differences between Intensive Interact and JABADAO Developmental Movement; finding ways to engage all learners in physical activity that supports their safety, comfort and communication.


"The work we are doing together is wonderful and 'JABADAO' has become an integral part of our curriculum .... We are now working on developing a more playful approach which will move our work to another level." Ann Andrew. Head​

JABADAO at Southfield Grange, Bradford        


a generic special school for pupils with 215 pupils with a range of  learning disabilities and complex needs


Southfield Grange are developing a strong strand of dance work with their students who have complex needs.  Following two week-long visits with The Tig  JABADAO has offered training (whole staff, small groups, key champions) to extend understanding of the approach we use, so that staff can develop their own  work.


"... our students ... only have to be engaged by the movement of a partner, and in the presence of music, for their responses to become creative expression. Watching you work with S on Friday crystallised that for me..." Dominic Wall. Head



This safe, fully accessible, touring space (filled with colour and light) comes with six JABADAO practitioners who support full-bodied sensory experiences of widely different sorts depending on the children and young people who enter. Everything that happens is child-led. With no words but a rich musical score, sessions can be astonishingly energetic or intensely focused. 


We work with early years, primary and secondary partners and with special needs community organisations. We bring The Tig to you for five days. Each day we offer up to seven sessions of 40 minutes each (fewer sessions if we are working with children and young people who use a hoist). Sometimes we work with one school, sometimes other schools travel to the site to share the residency. Email info@jabadao.org for further information

What people say about The Tig

It has ... highlighted to me that in those moments where you take a step back and think that a child is just playing, they are learning so much about the world, about others and about themselves that no practitioner or adult could plan for... To let children be children, to let them have a moment in the here and now that is fun, playful and free. We don’t do this enough 


Robyn Frost, Early Years Worker, Chester West and Chester Council  (Early Years)

I was struck again by the sustained level of focus and concentration that you all are able to produce, but even more so I was deeply impressed by the respect that emanates from the professional dancers for their partners   


Dominc Wall,  Head,  Southfield Grange, Bradford (Secondary

It was fascinating to watch a JABADAO pratitioner at work with Ben, putting a little pressure on the bottom of his feet, and hey presto! the next developmental stage of movement started to kick in! We wish we 'd known this before. We will certainly use what we've learnt at home.


Mum and Grandma after a studio session they attended in a special school.  (Primary)

We offer resources that are especially useful where sensory learning is key.
JABADAO Koosh Ball. Resoures for movement play and physical development
JABADAO Lycra. Resoures for movement play and physical development
JABADAO Body Balls are softer and more body friendly than any others. Resources for early years physical development and sensory learners
JABADAO Scarves. Resources for early years physical development and sensory learners
JABADAO Snuggly Mats. Resources for early years physical development and sensory learners
JABADAO Rockers. Resources for early years physical development and sensory learners

Koosh Ball

Lycra Tunnels

Soft body balls

Beautiful scarves

Snuggly floor rugs



Lycra Tunnel

A lycra tunnel is a fabulous resource for encouraging the kind of movement that supports development of a sense of body, something we all need to feel at ease with oursleves.  We first made these at the request of an occupational therapist, for a particular child. Now we make lots ...


Climb in and try to wriggle through ... it's a real work out. (Or a great place to snuggle in and feel safe.)

Body ball in place of a chair

If you have a wriggly child, a child who needs to move and is not ready to sit still yet,  instead of a chair,  try giving them a body ball (not fully blown up, but soft and soggy to make it more stable). This allows them to move as they focus on whatever other activity you, or they, are doing. (eg watching TV, doing a puzzle, looking at a book, listening to a story)


This way, their body can get something of what it needs in a useful way - which may make for  an easier life all round.