In my experience as a dancer and the mother of someone on the spectrum, I believe the strength of movement therapy and/or dance lies in three areas: the ability to bridge the challenges of spoken language that some individuals with autism experience; the possibilities for creating body and spatial awareness for those who have non-verbal processing difficulties; and, perhaps most importantly, as an avenue to creating social relatedness and interaction.
Movement/dance is the only truly universal language; people communicate regularly and naturally through “body language” whether they are aware of it or not, and regardless of cultural, geographical or neurological differences. For a person who experiences challenges with spoken language, movement/dance can represent a way to be heard and to express the internal.
However, many on the autism spectrum also lack an innate ability to interpret or absorb “non-verbal” communication and are uncomfortable with physical interaction. So movement therapy can represent a gradual and non-threatening way to teach body awareness and to defray the fear involved in the sensation of touching others or being touched.
Finally, movement/dance, is something that allows for individual interpretation and action, but also opens doors to creating social relationships with human to human contact. Movement therapy can allow neurotypicals to enter into the world of the person with autism on a more equal basis and without preconceptions, and to engage in a way that is respectful and meaningful. This in turn, may allow the person with autism to experience a social relationship that might otherwise be impossible.
Dance Critic and Arts Writer
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