Dancing disorders away

Pioneering dancer-turned-occupational therapist Dido Green has moved from England to Tel Aviv, where she develops new-age methods to treat childhood motor disorders.   Setting up a laboratory: Dido Green, of Tel Aviv University. Dido Green has lately planted her wandering, …

Pioneering dancer-turned-occupational therapist Dido Green has moved from England to Tel Aviv, where she develops new-age methods to treat childhood motor disorders.

 

Dido-Green

Setting up a laboratory: Dido Green, of Tel Aviv University.

Dido Green has lately planted her wandering, dancing feet in Tel Aviv, where she is developing a virtual method to analyze children’s movement patterns as a basis for more effectively treating childhood motor disorders.

The pioneering occupational therapist was an accomplished ballerina until an ankle injury forced her to seek a new calling. Born in Canada to parents of Scottish ancestry, she made frequent moves as the family followed her physician father to a series of academic positions. At age three, she began ballet lessons in Dallas, Texas. “My father apparently said I looked like a drunken bumblebee,” she recalls with a laugh.

But before long, under the guidance of a former New York City Ballet dancer, young Dido showed great promise. At 11, she left her family in Kentucky for the Washington School of Ballet in Washington, DC, and later trained with a dancer from the Joffrey Ballet, where she apprenticed at 15. When her parents moved to Ohio, she enrolled in New York City’s Professional Children’s School and continued her studies at the American Ballet Theater – taking extra courses so that she could both earn her high school diploma at 16 and dance full time.

The British accent that characterizes Green’s speech today originates from her 1976 transfer overseas to begin a stint with the Royal Ballet School. She danced with the National Ballet of Canada in 1979, and later at the Sadler’s Wells and Royal Ballet in London.

After “injuring out” at age 23, she returned to school and eventually found her niche in occupational therapy (OT).

Dance-Move

An early career as a ballerina gave Tel Aviv University lecturer Dido Green a unique insight into occupational therapy.

Enjoying Israel’s diversity

A summer archeological dig in Israel led to her meeting Adam Green, an artist and author who worked with the head archeologist’s brother back in London. Shortly after the pair wed in 1990, they traveled to Chile for four months. On a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship, Green studied the role of dance in promoting social integration for children with mental retardation. “That was the starting point for my ability to marry arts and science,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

Green went on to set up a large pediatric OT department at Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London and undertake research in pediatric neuroscience at the Evelina Children’s Hospital. Over the years, she had occasion to admire the accomplishments of Israeli occupational therapists and physicians she met at conferences around the world. Green, who is not Jewish, and her Jewish husband bought an apartment on Israel’s Mediterranean coast five years ago.

“In January 2009,” she relates, “I came to Israel with my husband and was invited to meet with the head of the occupational therapy department at Tel Aviv University. They had a vacancy [for a lecturer], and I thought it would be a good opportunity because TAU was keen to support the type of research I wanted to do.”

Living in Israel since October, Green says she and her husband are enjoying their multicultural surroundings. “Our frustrations are with Hebrew and finding our way around the bureaucracy, but that will end,” she states confidently. “I have been astounded at how welcome I’ve been made to feel. I love the blend of people really working together, investing for the future and striving to make it in a difficult part of the world.”

Games, magic and music sweeten therapy

Green is investigating new rehabilitation approaches, including movement analysis, to treat pediatric neurological conditions. Using virtual reality tools provided by a game-like system developed by colleagues at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Green is developing treatments that catch the fancy of kids as young as three and as old as 15.

“The virtual tabletop’s movement-oriented games allow the children to ‘make music’ and reach targets in ways that are normally neither comfortable nor fun in the therapeutic setting,” she says. Green aims to enable children to practice movements at home with parents while therapists oversee sessions via webcam.

This summer, she will start working with clients and set up her laboratory. With funding from a London-based performing arts charity, she is also studying how performing magic tricks might help disabled children undertake intensive motor programs.

Green currently is working on a grant proposal for a binational collaboration to take some of her rehabilitation ideas to market.

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About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.