Dance Movement Therapy for children with learning disabilities

Dance Movement Therapy for children with learning disabilities


Part one:


Children with learning disabilities can benefit greatly from dance movement therapy in many ways. To start with, their confidence can develop, self-esteem strengthens and ability to make friends nurtured.

A typical session might involve dancing / specific movements that can be developmental or expressive. Play that can be role-play or just play for play sake is a huge part of the sessions as can be art.

shepton_aut_class_10Change and growth happens progressively and for some children quite quickly.


What is Dance Movement Psychotherapy?

According to the ADMPUK:

“Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) recognises body movement as an implicit and expressive instrument of communication and expression. DMP is a relational process in which client/s and therapist engage creatively using body movement and dance to assist integration of emotional, cognitive, physical, social and spiritual aspects of self. The philosophical orientation of DMP is based on the intrinsic belief in the inter-relationship between psyche, soma and spirit as evidenced in the potential held in creative processes.

The focus on the moving body and non-verbal phenomena means that DMP can be beneficial for relational and developmental issues arising from early infancy to the elderly. Dance movement, when used in a therapeutic context, offers both as a way of assessment and of treatment for a range of neurological, psychological, relationship and social problems. It also provides opportunities for people who wish to develop their own creative potential.

DMP’s work in a range of settings within the public, private and voluntary sectors including health, education and social services. DMP can benefit individuals, couples, families, groups and organisational teams. DMP may be recommended as a primary service or as a complement to other forms of on-going treatment, rehabilitation or education. The therapy can be short term or long term. Enquiries can be made directly to a practitioner or referrals may be made through an individual or organisation. Clients do not require dance skills or training. The focus is upon the therapeutic process. The profession is continually informed by research and projects that open up and extend the field of DMP practice”




Learning disability:

Children with a learning disability are aware of others and the environment around them however; their ability to communicate is limited as is their way of expressing themselves. On top of this if they have speech problems having their feelings and needs understood by others becomes even harder. Mental health problems, anxiety issues; developmental disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are likely to present themselves in these children even though a learning disability is not a mental illness in itself.



How can dance movement therapy help these children?

Dance therapy is one of the creative arts therapies not really utilised enough in Wales from my point of view. Being concerned with development and integration of the whole person, the total person it is a methodology built upon the therapeutic process, which is the relationship, the emotional development and the symbolic presentations of inner conflicts. Also dance therapy is built upon developmental movement and movement expression.

Within the dance movement, therapeutic process it is possible to unblock if you like, the child’s resistances to growth which are often found in the rigidities of the muscles, rigidities in the posture and patterns of movement which limit the child’s feeling expression.

For dance therapists we believe that a change in movement expression will see a change in the personality or behaviour of the child. A healthy body-image can be established along with the strengthening of the self-concept at the pre-verbal level.


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