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Archive for January, 2011

Kudos to both TimesUnion.com for publishing a story on the power of dance/movement therapy with autism and to Paul Grondahl for writing it.

"Dance movement therapist Rachelle Smith-Stallman works on developing trust with 4 year old Emil Bouget as he touches her eye, during a session at his home in Albany, on Tues, Oct 19, 2010. Bouget is autistic," according to Paul Grondahl in the October 23, 2010 timesunion.com. (Philip Kamrass/Times Union)

Parents of children diagnosed with autism are eager, desperate even, for interventions and therapeutic modalities that will help them connect with their child. Dance/movement therapy, over time, has helped many.

Grondahl’s article describes the impact of dance/movement therapy on a child with autism. I recommend reading it, but must do so with one caveat. I must differ with the reference made by Janine Cruiswijk to art and movement therapies as being “new” and “slowly becoming more accepted and mainstream.” Dance/movement therapy is hardly new; rather, dance/movement therapists have been pioneers of the mind-body interface for over five decades and have been acknowledged by federal and state agencies for almost as long, in research, funding, and licensure. The process that remains “slow,” tragically, is the public’s AWARENESS of our profession as a whole and the UNDERSTANDING of this psychotherapeutic modality that makes the body and its power to nonverbally communicate central to healing and deepening relationship. The tragic result of this lack of awareness is that reimbursement from insurance companies is not yet available in all places.

But every story helps spread awareness. With awareness comes the potential for understanding and, eventually, broader accessibility for those interested in DMT services but unable to pay for them out of pocket.

To her credit, Cruiswijk, the executive director of the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, does note that dance/movement therapists are “highly trained therapists.” Indeed, dance/movement therapists are required to have a Master’s degree and thousands of hours of supervised clinical intern hours before being able to practice privately. (To read more on dance/movement therapy education and training, click here.)

Though I, personally, have never worked with children with autism, I know of many colleagues who do and the stories of connection and relationship will amaze you.

Here is one. Enjoy.

“Autistic Boy Makes Joyful Moves”

(As you watch the video footage, you’ll note instances of “mirroring,” a dance/movement therapy technique that helps communicate empathy and build therapeutic rapport. Mirroring and nonverbally reflecting the essence of another’s movement is both subtle and complex, never as straightforward as simply “doing what the other is doing.” But in this footage you can see a few examples of the dance/movement therapist building the nonverbal relationship in this manner. Additional still photos can be seen here.)

More on dance/movement therapy with autism, including research articles and books, can be read in this DMT-with-Autism-Informational-Sheet published by the ADTA.

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