Health Team

Raleigh teen introduces cerebral palsy patients to dance

Posted September 13, 2010

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— For many children with cerebral palsy, simply learning to walk is a lifetime goal.

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain before, during or shortly after birth, which can cause a variety of disabilities.

Leah Cauley, 17, a dance student for the past 10 years at the Raleigh School of Ballet, has a goal to help children with the condition discover the joys of dancing.

“After my cousin Ashton was born, I realized that I didn't think it was fair that some people weren't able to express themselves,” Cauley said.

Cauley’s cousin, Ashton McNeely, 9, has cerebral palsy. Ashton was born two months early, and low oxygen levels led to a brain injury.

“That affects her motor skills, fine motor skills, and also she's mainly affected in her calf muscles and her feet,” Ashton’s mother, Melanie McNeely, said.

Cerebral palsy patients learn to dance Cerebral palsy patients learn to dance

Ashton inspired Cauley’s idea to develop a cerebral palsy ballet program as her senior project at Clayton High School.

In the classes, she emphasizes stretching and ballet body positions. Though there isn’t a lot of research to support it, Cauley said the practice offers a physical therapeutic benefit.

“Ballet works muscles that sometimes you don't know exist, and I think you can specifically target areas that children with CP need,” she said.

McNeely said the exercises are really good for her daughter. The emotional and mental benefits alone are worth the time and effort, she said.

“You know your child will never dance like Leah can dance - beautiful on stage - but she dances her way and the best way that she can and is positive about it, and that's what makes it great,” McNeely said.

Cauley is hoping to earn a grant so she can develop a cerebral palsy dance therapy program.


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  • Pseudonym Sep 15, 2010

    Really cool story. It's nice to see people make the news for doing something good. We need more of that.

  • WXYZ Sep 14, 2010

    Hmmm...."So, you think you can dance?" All things being relative, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness are uncumbent upon us all, especially when responding to opportunities to understand and help those who are less fortunate. Would that more of us who are more fortunate be so unselfish and empathetic, as to donate our time, money and work to provide mainstreaming experiences for the disabled. In addition, dancing, horseback riding, boating, cycling, hiking, camping and fishing are but a few activities which could be offered to promote and maintain balance, coordination, stability and control as well as to counteract the ravages of social isolation.

  • drindiva Sep 14, 2010

    That is a fabulous project. My granddaughter has CP - she lives in Ohio, I would love to see her be able to participate in something like this. Keep up the good work and good luck with getting the grant!

  • packfan21 Sep 14, 2010

    Thats great and I wish you much success in your program. You are a very special young lady and you should be very proud of yourself.