I have had the pleasure of working with many groups and classes of children with Autism Spectrum disorder.
Sometimes they have poor expressive communication but good receptive ability. Other times they are able to express themselves perfectly but unable to receive information / signals / communication that comes towards them.
I do feel that through movement we are more able to meet these special souls in their world and thus transform difficulties at a level which bypasses the cortex. It can be proven that from the 1st to the 10th year the child has problems that come from the ‘first contact’.
The spontaneity is the first thing that is stopped.
Dance therapy is about watching for the natural spontaneity to emerge and catching it in a way to allow its golden aroma to discover more of who we are.
Dance involves direct expression through the body thus being a powerful medium for therapy. Based on the idea of the mind and the body being related it is described as the psycho-therapeutic use of movement as a process, which furthers the emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual integration of the individual. Dance therapy effects changes in feelings, cognition, physical functioning and behavior.
This dance movement therapy project is for children with special needs. The therapeutic aspect is experienced through the body and the mind. We sing, we dance, and we play connecting with our own unique expression and way to communicate, finding inspiration through music and art too.
“The psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance founded on the principle of motion and emotion being inextricably entwined. This relationship is the channel through which a person can embody a deeper connection with the self.” (Payne, 2006: xvi)
The child’s spontaneity and movement through play and dance emerges often sooner than adults as they often do not have the repression of life experiences so strongly in their bodies and as a result can discover their vital creative energies and find ways of expressing them. They too can discover relationships that build their confidence and self-esteem.
Our relationship with the everyday world is established through perception and movement. Physical ability is essential to life as it allows us to meet the physical demands of the environment. When certain motor skills are undeveloped, this tends to inhibit skills that are more complex.
Since some of these children remain at the pre-verbal level, non-verbal techniques as dance therapy are brilliant ways that enable the therapist to reach the child and help them to communicate.
Dance Movement therapy:
A new world of sensory awareness is available when we dance. This awareness is made possible by the kinaesthetic sense, which is the sense of knowing through your body. Dance therapy is movement beyond the boundaries of normal motor activity that has three major assumptions related to its practice (Schmais, 1974)
- Movement reflects personality
- The relationship established between therapist and patient through movement supports and enables behavioural change
- Significant changes occur on the movement level that can affect total functioning
“Dance therapy builds sequentially and developmentally from sensory awareness, to body parts awareness, to sense of self, to movement dynamics, to locomotor movement, to expressive movement. It utilises the inherent power of movement to open a channel of expression and communication for the patient through rhythms, music improvisation, and other stimulation techniques.” (Beltran-Lucila, n.d.)