Sunday, May 22, 2022
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Co-ordination     Confidence


Dr Ron Heavey

Dr. Ron HeaveyA pioneer and visionary, Dr Ronald Heavey MBE dedicated his life to convincing an often sceptical world that many special needs children, far from being an embarrassment to be sidelined, could be radically transformed into citizens of confidence and worth with good physical, mental and language skills.

As a young man Dr Heavey's strong humanitarian principles were outraged when he visited a special needs school. Apathetic pupils were locked in a room with an equally apathetic teacher. It was considered inadvisable at that time to allow the children to run free.

Dr Heavey vowed to change this retrograde thinking. Over the years, he succeeded in that and much, much more.

His early working life was spent as a top West End dancer, but he was forced to quit the stage after developing asthma and angina. He turned to teaching, obtained a doctorate, and decided to work with special needs people.

He eventually became headmaster of Mill House School in St Helen's, Lancashire. He now had the scope to put his visionary ideas into practice. Those with special needs, he contended, should not lead isolated and inactive lives.

They should be gently but firmly stretched; and the medium of dance was the ideal way because of its marked power to enhance mental, physical and social abilities while using methods that were soothing and entertaining.

All aspects of the learning process would be affected -- language, numeracy, social, and even geographical skills (folk dance would teach much about the cultures of other countries).

The end product would be an individual whose brain and body had been stimulated in such a way that permanent and highly beneficial change had been effected. Out went apathy. In came a heads-up confidence born of new-found abilities.

Experts and parents alike were so impressed and moved by Dr Heavey's signal achievements that they pressed him to disseminate his methods as widely as possible. So he formed a dance company that travelled nationally and internationally to demonstrate conclusively that those with special needs often had latent but very real artistic and other abilities that could, with patience and devotion, be uncovered.

Proficient in ballet, modem dance and tap, the company highlighted how its repertoire could be adapted for use with any special needs difficulties.

The company's reputation grew to the point where the President of the United States invited it to perform in the White House.

And film actors Arnold Schwartzenegger and Danny de Vito had two of the dancers appear on stage at the premiere of their film The Twins.

Dr Heavey died in 2001 but his great pioneering work continues to be spread by his protege and named successor, Angelina Alessendre.