Dance, Dance Revolution: Developing Skills through Dance
Dancing for many of us is a moment of freedom: it offers us a chance to break away from the rigors of our daily schedules, and exercise a great deal of creativity and improvisation. Above all else, dancing is fun! It is such qualities that make dance such a great tool to develop the social, creative, and physical skills of individuals with autism.
Dancing is a very emotional exercise. We can convey so much through movement. Through dance, many therapists try to harness the human capacity to copy or “mirror”. The therapist can convey different emotions through dance, and by mirroring those movements, the student can better understand various emotional states (anger, sadness, happiness, etc) and can mirror these emotions during sessions and slowly identify them in real world settings. For those students who have trouble relating to others, the ability to read another person’s emotions and respond appropriately is crucial for facilitating and sustaining relationships.
Dancing is also a great way of getting to understand one’s body. Research shows that for some individuals with autism, certain parts of their body are not responsive because the individual is not aware of its function and therefore does not use or develop that certain part. The dynamics of dance movements makes those with autism more aware of various parts of their bodies and allows them to be responsive to their body messages. Once a student is self aware of their bodies, they can develop various aspects of movement (speed, control, coordination.etc)
With little ability to clearly communicate, relate, or engage with their environments, individuals with autism are trapped in their own worlds. Dance, then, becomes a means to bridging worlds and making moments of connection more frequent and sustainable.