Forward Thinking Movement (FTM) and Dance supports more than 300 children every week.

The group’s founder, Leanne, sat down with VAL to tell us about how her personal experiences led her to setting up the group.

For Leanne, getting to the point of being able to found FTM Dance was a struggle in itself.

I come from a very humble beginning. I was brought up on a council estate in Leicester City and my parents use to go without food so they could send me to my performing arts lesson when I was younger!

Ever since I received my national insurance number through the post I have been working. When I was studying at university I also worked full time night shifts, so it took me 5 years to pass my undergraduate.

After struggling through school, many people would have gone straight into an easy job, but Leanne was inspired by her experiences with family members to take another route.

My cousin Amy inspired me to open FTM Dance. She has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and I just wanted to create something she could access and enjoy and be treated like a person first before the diagnosis. After university I managed to finally come out with a degree in Psychology which I could not let go to waste.

I have been involved with performing arts in community settings since the age of 3 and I had always wanted to open my own performing arts school. I just had a lightbulb moment to start piloting a special needs performing arts school.

Running FTM Dance has been a struggle, but for Leanne every minute is well worth it

I opened FTM dance in September 2013 and was working and running the school at the same time until December 2015 and I finally went full time with FTM Dance from January 2016. All of our pupils are inspiring young people who keep surprising me week on week. Its amazing to see the new friendships that they have made.

It is also astounding when you see children who have had serious brain surgery a few days before and at the weekend they are laughing and joking with their friends dancing around like it hasn’t affected them AT ALL- it’s just amazing! All of our pupils and their families are super human, I am sure of it!

We asked Leanne how running FTM Dance has changed her.

I have gained TOO MUCH weight, TOO MANY grey hairs and sleepless nights BUT it is all worth it when I see the children enjoying themselves. Our pupils are the ones that keep me going.

You can find out more about FTM Dance on their website: www.ftmdance.co.uk/