Alternative therapies for autism often provide an outlet for children to express themselves and tap into a world that they rarely feel connected to. Such is the case with dance/movement therapy (DMT), a strategy used to help children suffering with ASD. Dance/movement therapy, which uses movement as a “universal means of communication,” is a valuable form of communication for children with autism- particularly those with underdeveloped speech skills (LeFeber, 2010). It allows for a medium of communication with clients that may have otherwise found it difficult to relate to the world around them. Participants can engage fully using nonverbal communication. This takes away from the stress of trying to formulate and express things verbally, something many individuals with autism struggle with.
How does DMT benefit children with autism exactly? The idea is that behavior is communicative and personality can be reflected through movement. As a result, changes in movement can also influence personality, and broaden social ability. This allows the individual to cope better with his/her surrounding and also be more comfortable with space and environment (Kestenberg et. al., 1999; Meekums, 2002).
Speech can be encouraged through teaching of basic commands, as well as movements and commands being paired. This divergence of visual and audio cues often make concepts more comfortable for children to grasp. In addition to speech, socialization goals can also be met through group therapy and building foundational relationships between instructors and students.
There is much that can be gained by exploring the world of dance/movement therapy, many children have found confidence, comfort and flourished on a number of cognitive levels through this process.
For more information on DMT, you can contact the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) at: www.adta.org or call them to find a dance therapy center near you at: (410) 997-4040.
References / Sources
- Kestenberg, J.A., Loman, S., Lewis, P., & Sossin, K.M. (1999). The meaning of movement: Developmental and clinical perspectives of the Kestenberg Movement Profile. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
- LeFeber, M.M., (2010) Dance/Movement Therapy. “Cutting-Edge Therapies in Autism”. New York: Skyhorse Publications.
- Meekums, B. (2002) Dance Movement Therapy: A Creative Psychotherapeutic Approach. London: Sage Publications