Dance/Movement Therapy for Autistic Children

 

We are constantly seeking innovative ways to help autistic children who struggle with communicating and connecting to others in social environments. Dance/movement therapy is quickly becoming recognized as beneficial in helping kids with ASD express themselves.

Therapists are using dance as a way to assess and intervene in your child’s life in a positive way. Unlike a regular dance class this one is not about teaching specific steps or a routine. It is also not specifically an exercise class, however, can achieve similar goals. Depending on the child each dance session can look different. Focusing on the needs of the particular individual or a small group they can work solo or alongside parents and families to help improve the quality of the parent teacher relationship. The goal is to channel communication patterns into dancing.

By asking ourselves how do we speak their language we can create a starting point in which to communicate with an autistic child who processes connections very differently than we do. One therapist, Christina Devereaux, speaks to her experience with dance/movement therapy while working with a little girl who had very limited verbal communication, was very interested in objects opposed to people, and was easily agitated and anxious. It was a small group session where the children were twisting side to side together. Then they began twisting towards each other and then away. The dance became a metaphor for her relationship with the children as they moved closer one moment and further the next. Rejection, Devereux says, is still a form of social communication. Deciding to hold her hand out during the dancing, the girl took it and twisted their way towards each other culminating in a high five where the little girl said, “hi”.

These small moments of connection and verbal communication are important milestones for autistic children as it helps them deal with repetitive and restrictive behaviors. Helping parents experience how to tune into their child in nonverbal ways can establish very warm and satisfying relations for both parent and child. Devereaux adds that feeling understood is a biological imperative and the greatest benefit of dance/movement therapy lies in its ability to provide social relatedness and form relationships.

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Also check out the Turtle Dance Music Group which offers programs and shows for autistic children http://www.turtledancemusic.com/