In recent years, we have seen an emergence of Dance Movement Therapy as a supplemental treatment approach for children on the ASD spectrum.
You might have heard of various DMT workshops and classes happening around you and wondered if DMT is just a fancy word for a regular dance class. Well, we’re here to tell you that that’s not the case at all!
If you have been thinking of seeking DMT for your child or are simply curious about it, this article might just be your answer!
What is Dance Movement Therapy?
The American Dance Therapy Association defines DMT as, “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.”
DMT operates on the principle that the mind, body, and spirit are interconnected and inseparable. Its use of movement and action to initiate contact and communication is what makes it useful for children with autism, especially, because it thrives in the non-verbal realm of communication.
In DMT, the experience of the body is used to make a connection to one’s own mind and to form relationships with others.
Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of DMT for autism –
Benefits of DMT for Autism –
- Increases self-awareness: As individuals with ASD tend to have limited perception of their body in relation to space, self, and others, DMT aims to increase body knowledge through the exploration of movement.
- Enhance empathy: ‘Mirroring’ is one of the important techniques employed in DMT. In mirroring, the therapist’s movements are imitated by the client. Research suggests that mirroring promotes emotional understanding and empathy in the client.
- Improves social skills: Important aspects of socialization including maintaining eye contact, facial expressions, and appropriate body movements are taught to your child through the previously mentioned technique of mirroring. In addition, group sessions can be beneficial in improving social skills and communication in your child.
- Fosters healthy self-expression: A lot of children on the ASD spectrum struggle to express their emotions and needs. DMT provides them a safe and healthy outlet to express their inner world in a way that is liberating.
Dance is a universal language that is not deterred by boundaries, spoken words, or our concepts of normality. DMT makes use of this universality beautifully; communicating through our bodies and forming meaningful connections.
Another important thing to note would be that every DMT session is designed to cater to the needs and requirements of your child. The therapist will use several techniques to enhance particular skills within the child.
This quote by Sabine C. Koch and Diana Fischman sums up the essence of DMT wonderfully – “Dance Movement Therapy focuses on the foundation of meaning built through shared intersubjective experiences, and thus makes us living, sensitive, and creative human beings.”
McGarry, L. M., & Russo, F. A. (2011). Mirroring in dance/movement therapy: Potential mechanisms behind empathy enhancement. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 38(3), 178-184.