Written by Amy Andrews
Imagine being in a classroom where the instruction is given in a completely different language than the one you regularly speak. How frustrating would that be? How lonely? How difficult to stay on task? This is how it can feel for students with disabilities in a traditional classroom setting. Enter Allegro Foundation. Allegro developed a unique curriculum based on years of research that uses movement to reinforce learning concepts, allowing students to feel what is being learned and commit it to muscle memory.
How does this look in a classroom? If, for example, students are learning to count, a traditional approach would be to count 1, 2, 3, 4 and then have the students mirror that back. The concept of numbers may not be readily grasped by students of differing abilities and they may be hearing or interpreting something like 2, 5, 6, 10. An Allegro lesson might have the students march in place and use their bodies and the beat of the music to drum out the numbers.
Allegro Foundation is committed to helping preschool and elementary age children, regardless of their disability, learn in an often very new way. The results they are seeing are extraordinary. What seemed like a “radical” idea for teaching twenty years ago has been tested over time and has become a highly accepted modality.
Allegro runs FREE Movement Education programs in numerous Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, including the Huntersville area, as well as Fort Mill and Rock Hill, working with students during the school day on a weekly basis. They also run after school programs at Sardis Presbyterian Church and Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Matthews. They are eager for parents to know about their entirely free programming and would like to teach as many children as possible. If you know of a student who could benefit from an Allegro after school program, learn more here. In the summertime, Allegro also facilitates programming through a litany of summer school programs.
Beyond free one-on-on programming, each Allegro student is given a personal assessment and evaluation, which is an extremely helpful tool for parents, caregivers and medical professionals. “This is virtually unheard of in our industry,” said Pat Farmer, Founder and President of Allegro. She added, “We don’t discriminate against any disability. We strive to help children who are living with all type of disabilities, including Down syndrome, orthopedic challenges, spina bifida, autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, muscular dystrophy, visual and hearing impairments, children at-risk and children living with cancer.”
Since 2000, Allegro has served thousands of children living with disabilities through their programs - but the need is great. There are more than 18,000 eligible children living in the Charlotte, Huntersville, Fort Mill and Rock Hill areas who would be candidates for Allegro programs.
Allegro has gained national and international notoriety for their approach, including being the first organization of children with disabilities in our nation’s history to have been invited to present at the White House in 2004. Though intentionally focused on serving the larger Charlotte community, this led to a partnership with the Department of State and the Library of Congress, with Allegro regularly hosting delegations from all around the world to share their innovative approach. Allegro does not receive funding for this time spent teaching other countries, as they consider it a basic human rights issue of helping those living with disabilities.
Allegro is funded solely through private donations. They are not a United Way agency and do not receive any government funding. They are good stewards of the funds they receive, making sure that every possible dollar goes back into programming. They even leverage relationships to garner donated space, never having paid rent since their relocation to Charlotte twenty years ago.
Allegro also partnership with colleges and universities nationwide for both research and student interns/volunteers. Allegro is very proud of their partnership with Atrium’s College of Health and Human Services. Through their Nurse Rotation Program about 120 nursing students per semester do a clinical rotation with Allegro. This rotation is mutually beneficial for both Allegro students and future clinicians as they learn more about the variety of patients they may be working with in the future.
How Can You Help?
Allegro is currently in desperate need of four computers and printers to keep their office running efficiently. If you would like to contribute in a financial way, donations (large and small!) are sincerely appreciated.
Volunteers are also always in high demand at Allegro. Office volunteers can help fulfill needs such as mailing information to prospective student families and providing general office support. If you know someone who would like to become involved in the classroom, Allegro would be eager to have you. They are looking for teachers, ideally people with a college degree in psychology or a related field or those with a movement background. Allegro will be more than happy to provide training, but they do ask for a weekly time slot availability to ensure consistency with students.
Allegro also holds a variety of fundraisers each year. Their annual Golf Invitational will be held at Cedarwood Country Club on September 28th and their next gala Ambassador Ball will be held on January 9, 2021.
For more information on Allegro, their programming and special events, visit the Allegro Foundation web site or call (704) 412-5229 to speak with an Allegro representative.DID YOU KNOW: Allegro Foundation is in the running to win $5K this month thanks to Amy and Brian France Foundation who have partnered with SHARE Charlotte for this year’s Spotlight Series and YOU can help when you VOTE NOW! You can also check out the other organizations eligible to win this month’s prize, here!