Autism and movement analysis


Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. It affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people. In addition, how they make sense of the world around them (Society, 2011). Clinically it is a neurological difference within the brain.

I just wanted to share some notes of mine from a recording tool used to capture the essential elements whilst working with various groups of children. If you would like more information on this subject, please ask me. It is in note form so may seem a little complicated but, hopefully it is worth sharing!

The child on the autistic spectrum has the chance to emerge from his disconnected state through relationship, which in (dmp) occurs not just by mirroring but also through witnessing, playing and being held in ways that perhaps could not be possible without movement.

Techniques and recording methodskaren_woodley_seniors_02

A systemic method of movement analysis for a (dmp) is necessary to notate specific and precise motor movements / behaviours as well as affective motor movements and behaviours.

“In other words human movement is always emotive movement.” (Shahar-Levy, 2009: 267)

Movement-recording tool 1.

A first movement- recording tool was used for the first few weeks. This tool is one used by a tutor at the University.

The movement themes were interesting to note as often times within movement themes one is able to see the styles of the child’s movements. Movement styles reveal elements of the child’s experience with his/her environment (Tortora, 2009: 161).

When movement changes so does the psychological aspect of the child (Fischman, 2009: 44 - 45). For this reason the psychological aspects section was not used and focus was placed on interventions of play. Winnicott describes psychotherapy as the coinciding of play of the patient and the therapist.

“In my work with children, I discovered the precision of Winnicott’s words when he said that if a patient does not play, our task is to help him do so.” (Wengrower, 2009: 24)

Interventions made were in response to the quality of the energy in the children, the effort factor of their movement. Laban (Moore and Yamamoto, 1988: 185) believed that the use of energy or dynamics of an action showed the intentions. He used the term effort to define the dynamic energies utilized in movement. Laban sees effort as the inner impulse, a movement sensation, or a thought, a feeling or an emotion from where all movement originates (Maletic, 1928: 179).

Both Laban and Kestenberg’s movement observation systems are concerned with the most subtle changes in the body and the corresponding psychological and emotional state, which is associated with the physical change (Bannerman-Haig, 1992: 89).

The quality of effort in this first group of children was hyperactive therefore, the sessions were directed with a strong emphasis on balancing activity and resting energies, the sympathetic and Para-sympathetic expressions of the nervous system

One of the principles of the Bartenieff fundamentals (Hackney, 2002: 46) is the principle of exertion - recuperation that is a natural cycle in exerting the body and then allowing the body to recuperate in order to replenish itself.

These therapeutic interventions seemed important to take into account. However, as the focus was on the group they became ineffective in ‘giving voice’ to essential elements related to the interventions themselves.

Movement-recording tool 2.

Modifications were made to “form 1” as “form 2” was designed, drawing on ideas from (Tortora, 2006) who gives a very detailed way of observing children’s movement and behaviour. Predominantly non-verbal taking into account the melody, and rhythm of actions as well as attending to the use of touch.

The ‘group clinical notes’ page facilitated an overview of the whole group. Encouraging the immediate sensations and experiences to be highlighted and observed. From experience, these prove very valuable.

The ‘tick box’ style proved very efficient on ‘clinical notes page 1’ of “form 2”. Laban’s movement analysis tool allows for observation in a non-judgemental way (Sherbourne, 2001: 62). However, being concerned with body, effort, space and shape, with their accompanying facets was not only time consuming but, on reflection drew attention from the kinaesthetic - felt observations.
Personally, I found the flow of energy through the body, the movement through space, the effort exerted and the timing of the movement encouraged a more exact picture, which encompassed the movement and the emotion. For this reason, “Form 3” was designed and could be used as a research tool for a non-directive humanistic as oppose to psychodynamic approach.

‘Clinical notes page 2’ served as a very important part of “Form 2” as the embodied experience and elaboration of connections through touch, relationship; the obvious disassociations noted as well as melodic and rhythmic movement expressions that were seen could be explained in detail.

In conclusion recording the affective movement as well as the motor movement is of paramount importance. The effort theory enabled me to be comfortable in attending to the ‘felt-sense’ of what is happening in movement as oppose to being caught up in the analysis. Tuning into and responding to the motion factors of space, weight, time and flow helped in understanding the child.

Kestenberg’s interpretation of movement is a more in depth application that highlights early developmental deficits and strengths. Attuning to the client through movement empathy via muscle tension was used in certain exercises. However, noting this on the recording sheet was difficult.

Regarding neuroscience, the early months / years of life when neurological connections are being made in the brain are possible to return to at any stage of life through (dmp), which activates through movement and dances these affective connections in safe containment.

Through the process of embodiment, the material contained within the countertransference served as wise guidance. It facilitated more of a bodily encounter with the child, therefore providing a wider knowledge of the child’s affective world.

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