1996 - 2020
Illustration: James Morren
In 1996, Ms. Kogan began using her skills and opportunities to help children who are unable to help themselves, due to physical, emotional, and cognitive influences. She received a degree in occupational therapy in 2000 and, since then, using her special mix of traditional and movement treatments, has worked with a wide range of disabilities. In 2007, she founded “Sensory Steps” - A Movement Intervention - for children with autism and other neurological disabilities to help them move more effectively, attend better, and improve social skills. As part of the movement experience, the program fosters expressiveness, creativity, social cohesiveness, teamwork, increased cognition, and a greater sense of self.
In 2013, driven by “what works”, armed with extensive research and a deep conviction in the power of movement, Ms. Kogan created a series of workshops called “KoganSteps” to help service professionals, educators, artists, and parents integrate movement practices into what they already do with the children they care for. “KoganSteps” has been presented at various international events and venues, including : “The Very Special Arts Program” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC; Young Child's Expo and Conference, NYC; Prevent Child Abuse Conference, Albany, NY; New York Therapy Placement Services, NYC & Queens; NYC Department of Education, NYC; and the Lee Kong Chian Garden School (MINDS) in Singapore under the auspices of the John Mead Dance Company. In 2016, as part of the Dance Motion USA/BAM program, Ms. Kogan gave a two-day pre-tour intensive called “A Therapeutic Approach In An Artistic Package” to the Limón Dance Company, in NYC, to prepare the company members to work with disabilities in Africa.
Ellen Kogan holds a B.A. in Dance from the University of California at Irvine, a M.A. in Dance from University of California at Los Angeles, a certificate in Dance Therapy and a M.A. in Occupational Therapy from New York University.
Movement Program Timeline
2007 - 2020
September 2007 – A Program called “Sensory Steps – A Movement Intervention” begins in response to children’s motor control deficits as well as to help fulfill the NYS mandate to provide Adaptive Physical Education to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurological disabilities. The class teaches what is a new language for many of the children – The Language of Movement – which, because of their neurological deficits, many of the children have not had a chance to learn before. The goals are to help children move more effectively, attend better, and improve social skills.
Ellen Kogan conceives and directs the program with Barbara Bradbury, OTR/L.
All children come from one classroom and one teacher; total is approximately 13 children.
Children are 9 years and above.
Both teachers and service providers are included in the class providing modeling skills for the children and “universality” (people bonding together because they are all doing the same thing).
A consistent methodology begins to emerge. The treatment approach: 1) identify a motor control deficit in an individual child or children, 2) create a movement activity that addresses a deficit, and 3) integrate it into a lesson plan and repeats it over and over, in such a way, that, in time, change occurs. Maintain highly structured, predictable, routine, repetitive teaching environment for this population.
Children enter the program through team recommendation.
November 2009 – Ms. Kogan completes the curriculum. (see excerpts below).
2009-2012 – Ms. Kogan creates a theoretical framework, "The Movement Evaluation Continuum", to guide intervention.
Goals are created for both individual and group and include both, motor control and social skill development.
Children now come from 13 classes and 13 teachers – total is between 30-50 children.
Completion of the first eight movement studies to provide treatment and put the Movement Evaluation Continuum into practice. The movement studies are called “The Eight Dances”.
August 2013 – 1st video is created for presentation at the Kennedy Center. All movement studies/ dances are recorded.
August 2013 – Presentation at Intersections: The Arts and Special Education: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
September 2013 – 2nd video is created to further educate viewers and promote the program.
October 2013 – Added 5-8-year old children to the program.
November 2013 – Under the direction of Dr. Priscilla Feir, an assessment protocol begins to determine whether movement class can be linked to improvement in motor control and/or social skill development.
Fall 2014 – An initial positive presentation of assessment results. The work was not completed due to scheduling conflicts.
January 2015 – A new program was created called “KoganSteps”. KoganSteps is In-service Training for health care providers, artists, therapists, educators (including pre-school), artists, movement specialist, parents, parents with their children and caregivers.
There are two workshops:
“How to integrate Movement Practices into Clinical Treatment, Lesson plans and Everyday Activities.”
“How to Provide A Therapeutic Understanding in An Artistic Package.”
Workshops presented through 2018 include (pre-pandemic):
The Young Child Expo and Conference, NYC.
The Child Abuse Conference (PCANY), Albany, NY.
New York Therapy Placement Services (NYTPS). NYC.
NYTPS. – Queens, NYC.
NYTPS. “Movement and Mindfulness: The Importance of the Body-Mind Connection Across Modalities. Queens.
NYC Department of Education – Professional Development for Dance Teachers and Occupational Therapists, NYC.
The Lee Kong Chian Garden School (Minds), Singapore.
Lecture at LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts – “From Dance to OT: Disabilities, Dance and Education."
NYTPS. - Pre-school Teachers, NYC.
Limón Dance Company; pre-tour training for Dance Motion USA/BAM program, Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYC.
Two new research sections on the Mirror Neuron System and Rhythmic Cueing are added to the workshop.
As we are all cooped up in our homes, it is more important than ever to find meaningful ways to move. A webinar is being created to provide virtual training during the pandemic and beyond.
Excerpts from Ellen Kogan's Original Movement Program Curriculum
Observations of How We Got
Here, How It Got Started (Why Is It Important) and Where We May Go
While I was preparing to write this manuscript, I went through many old books and articles on movement and dance. I came across myself quoted in “Dancing – A Guide for the Dancer You Can Be” written by Ellen Jacob over three decades ago. The Education of the Handicapped Act of 1986 had not yet been enacted. The Individuals with Advisability Education Act (IDEA) was not until 1990. In the late 1970's, I had not even begun to work with children let alone those with disabilities. I had not worked at Lincoln Center Institute or taught at major institutions or even performed on major stages. Ms. Jacob and I were both still young. We were friends and she was preparing to write her first book. We were chatting and she asked me in an off-handed sort of way, “What is a dancer, anyway?” She writes how she expected me to chuckle at such an elemental question and was surprised at the seriousness of my reply.
“I'm a performer, I get up on a stage, but dance is bigger than that, much bigger. I have seen people break into tears from dancing, or laugh hysterically, reaching different places in themselves - not because they have technique but because they are somehow able to find expression in movement. I've taught recreational dancers and senior citizens and I've seen them have experiences with movement that are every bit as profound as I can imagine. That to me is dancing, because if you are expressing yourself that deeply, you're dancing; and whether or not it is on stage, to me, is not the point.”
Thirty years later, I am in a different field but would probably say the same thing if asked the same question. I believe movement is the ultimate form of expression because man is aware of everything first through his own body. The biggest human experiences, birth, death and sex are body oriented. We cannot even see without our body as a background. We see our nose and cheeks as we look out at the world.
In these last years, much has changed in the world of educating children, particularly those with special needs. We have mandates, requirements, funding, more special schools and a profound respect for the rights of all children to be educated. But as someone who spends an hour a day with 18-20 children with autism in my movement class, I found myself still asking questions about their education. Because these children have not learned how to move, they remain locked within themselves.
The children were in good physical health but their movement was restricted, and inflexible. They could not turn their heads freely or lift their arms over their heads to feel the space above them. All the everyday movement skills that the rest of us take for granted, like trunk rotation, bending our knees, going from a round to a straight back, were a challenge. They could not feel their own weight. All functional movement depends on the ability to perceive the weight of your head, trunk and limbs and understanding how much force it takes to control and handle those weights. Thus, the most fundamental element in movement is weight and how you use energy to move your body weight against gravity in space and time. These students had not learned this.
When these classes first began, they were an immediate success. I was startled, especially by the middle school population who were less disabled. I expected more resistance because, overall, if you cannot move well you learn to avoid things that involve moving. You get out of doing it any way you can.
Instead of avoidance, I have been met with a quiet, daily willingness. We have been extremely sensitive to introducing material slowly, giving them things that they can do and praising them for their successes. The music adds to a positive mood. No new child has been allowed to enter class unless they are prepared first. In this way, we can guarantee their success and increase in self-esteem. All assistants participate; I call out corrections to them like everyone else. The child figures out that if their role model can make a mistake it must be OK for them to do so as well. I have concluded that most of these children could have felt better about movement in the first place by simple acts like these.
This class and this curriculum are dedicated to improving the movement behavior among children with disabilities. It is my belief that, in every school, movement classes should start at a very early age and that children with disabilities need and have a right to this part of their education as much as any other basic learning experience. I believe this would have a profound effect on their ability to function effectively in school, home and in their community. There is no magic in the activities presented here. But there is power in the knowledge and understanding of why and how we move and in our commitment to help children who have been unable to develop normal movement skills themselves.
Some things just take time to process. I have been told that I am “flying by the seat of my pants.” That is probably true. It was not difficult to work with the children but it was difficult to understand them. It is easier today. We have come a certain distance. This curriculum is a work in progress. I hope it is helpful to those who read it and that it will foster continuous learning and an appreciation for the individual potential of children with special needs.
See "Resources" for the original curriculum.
Barbara Bradbury, OTR/L
assistant and collaborator 2007-2015
Technical Supervisor 2007-2020
Ellen in Southeast Asia, 2017
Ellen with participants from KoganSteps Workshop in Singapore - improving movement practices for children with disabilities.
Sponsored by John Mead Dance Company
(Lee Kong Clian Garden School).
2018 KoganSteps Workshop
Dancer: Kathryn Alter, Limón Dance Company
Photo: Jen Holub
For more information about Ellen, click here to go to Dance Artist Highlights under the History tab.