Recent research has found promising evidence for dance/movement therapy (DMT) for autism as an intervention technique.
Dance/Movement Therapy DMT for Autism
Medical professionals wildly misunderstood autism for decades. So truthfully, not a lot of research was done on interventions for autism until more recently.
There’s still a lot to learn when it comes to finding therapies that help autistic children, while still embracing and accepting them for who they are.
But – at the very least, dance movement therapy can be a lot of fun!
What is Dance/Movement Therapy
Dance/movement therapy, called DMT for short, is the therapeutic use of dance and movement to improve or treat various psychological or emotional challenges.
DMT is based on the idea that motion and emotion are interconnected and you can express or release your emotional energy through movement.
DMT helps individuals with depression, anxiety, dementia, etc and may have benefits for children with autism, too.
Why Does Dance/Movement Therapy Help Children With Autism?
Dance/movement therapy helps children with autism in a variety of ways.
Some ways DMT helps:
Research on Dance/Movement Therapy
There isn’t a significant amount of research on dance/movement therapy for autism but the research that is available is promising.
Current research found both short-term and long term benefits of reduced stress and improved mood. (Source).
There’s also an empirical link between dance therapy and lower cortisol levels, as well as better self-esteem.
Another study found DMT improves “body-self” for individuals through self-scoring. The term “body-self” means body-based, interactive, experiencing of emotions and core-self (Source). This is a common struggle in autistic individuals.
A study of daycare children found that the children who participated in dance movement therapy showed significantly greater positive gains over time in social competence and both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems.
This supports the idea that DMT may improve social and communication skills.
DMT Exercises At Home
I’m not sure how practical finding a dance therapist would be.
But if you’re interested in the ways DMT may help your child and want to try it out at home, these are some activities you can try.
Before you start
Create a music playlist
You should begin by putting together a playlist of music to use with your child. Begin with music that is melodic and has a positive meaning to your child.
During the exercise, you should change the music to fit your child’s energy level so you may want to include music that is more upbeat. It’s also great to have a mixture of fast and slow music for promoting your child to move at the speed of the song.
If you’re not currently using a music streaming service, you can sign up for a free trial of Amazon Music here. Then you can create your playlists and save them for later.
Make room to move
Make sure you create a clear, open space for your child to move freely. Remove anything that could be a tripping hazard and move furniture back to create enough room.
Alternatively, you could take this activity outside and do it in the yard.
Starting DMT at Home
Begin with free movement. Just let your child dance and move to the music however they wish. Join in and dance with them. This is also a great bonding activity.
Mirroring is an exercise used by dance/movement therapists that’s considered to enhance emotional understanding and empathy for others.
Acknowledge your child and begin to mimic their movements. Then, take turns being the leader. First, you copy their dance and then have them copy yours. If you have more than one child doing the exercise, they should all take turns being the leader.
Movement prompts are another exercise you can do with your child. This encourages children to think about their bodies, movements, and music.
Try some of these prompts:
Kids songs with actions
Getting your kids to dance with you to children’s songs with actions is a good way to work on motor planning, praxis, and following directions/actions.
Some examples of songs with actions:
You can also find a large list of songs with actions on Songs For Teaching.
Although research is still limited, it is promising.
These activities could potentially help your child with self-regulation, social skills, and expressing their emotions.
If nothing else, it’s sure to be a lot of fun!