How does Autism impact children?
Around one in a hundred children in the UK have autism, a lifelong developmental disability which affects an individual’s social skills, communication abilities and the way that they perceive the world. Autistic children tend to face a series of challenges in society; the majority have experienced exclusion from the activities that other children access and a lack of employment opportunities as they grow up.
According to research by BeyondAutism, over 60% of teachers in the UK admit that they have had inadequate training to teach children with autism, a statistic, among many others, which reflects a severe lack of social awareness surrounding the disorder.
Australian sociologist David Gray claims that more serious forms of the Autism often involve “extremely disruptive and antisocial behaviour,” a major contributing factor towards the misconceptions associated with autism. With no identifiable or physical characteristics to signify that an individual has a disability, people often assume that autistic children lack self-discipline or that they have a mental illness. These behavioural disturbances can affect the confidence of families taking their child into public spaces and prevents the child from being included in the activities that other children enjoy.
How can we address this?
According to recent research, autism is the fastest-growing development disorder. It is also the most underfunded. Dance/ Movement Therapy (DMT) has been identified as one of the most effective approaches to help people with autism by promoting their emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration. Dance/ Movement Therapy helps children to create and build relationships. Psychology Today has said that DMT is a form of therapy that is gaining attention for its unique capacity to work directly with the ‘core deficits’ of the disorder.
“It is important to note that the intention is to first understand the person with autism, to join with them, and then to help them modify their communication in a way so that repetitive restrictive behaviours can become channelled, the nervous system can settle, and social engagement can begin. This is dance/movement therapy’s starting point”, Christina Deveraux writes for Psychology Today.
Dance/Movement therapists assess body language, non-verbal behaviours and emotional expressions to address the specific needs of the individual. Some interventions of Dance/Movement Therapy include matching and mirroring the individual’s movements to express empathy and validate what the person is feeling. Some therapists also use a ‘movement metaphor’ or a prop to help the person physically and expressively demonstrate a therapeutic challenge or achievement.
Children across the autistic spectrum require different levels of support, but the challenges faced are often shared. Dance/Movement Therapy is an appropriate response to the limitations faced by children with autism; it provides a different form of therapy which enables them to flourish in and strengthen their relationships with others.