The Effects of Dance/Movement Therapy on Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

A recent pilot study exploring the use of mirroring in the treatment of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) supports previous findings that dance/movement therapy can increase social skills of individuals with ASD in addition to improving body awareness, self-other differentiation, and psychological well-being. man_dancing_with_himself_IE391-024_thumb.jpg

Researchers in Germany worked with 31 participants, aged 16-47 years, with autism spectrum disorder.  While a control group of 15 participants received no treatment during the course of the study, the 16 members of the experimental group participated in a seven-sessiondance/movement therapy (DMT) treatment that used mirroring as its primary intervention.

For readers unfamiliar with the mirroring technique, imagine that you are standing in front of an actual mirror.  Now, replace the glass with another person.  Just as your reflected self follows your motions, this person copies you.  When you raise your arm, she raises hers.  In mirroring during a DMT session, the therapist becomes the client’s reflection.  Rather than simply copying the client’s actions, however, the therapist uses empathy to connect and reflect the client’s underlying movement qualities.  The therapist may also take certain motions and alter their quality, encouraging the client to try out new ways of moving.  Overtime, this process becomes shared so that both therapist and client move between the leader/follower roles.  As the researchers of this study note, it is through such give-and-take that a ‘mutual relationship’ is formed between the therapist and client.  This relationship helps clients become more attuned to others while simultaneously allowing them to feel a greater sense of self-differentiation.  In its simplest form, mirroring occurs between two people, the client and the therapist.  However, it may also involve multiple participants.  One such example of this is the “Baum-circle,” in which one person improvises movement while all other group members follow.  MORE HERE

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