Dance and Movement as Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): A Case for Kuching, Sarawak

Dance and Movement as Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): A Case for Kuching, Sarawak

Jane Teo (British Ballet Organization, Malaysia) and Ong Puay Hoon (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0034-6.ch101
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Abstract

This chapter attempts to introduce the concept of Dance and Movement Therapy (DMT) in treating autistic-like symptoms and discusses the validity and feasibility of adopting DMT as a complementary component of an existing intervention framework. By defining mainstream DMT, identifying its implications for children across the spectrum, and briefly touching upon the theoretical aspects of its workings, it is hoped that parents, teachers, and educators can gain a more thorough understanding of this method. An outline of how it can be adapted for children with a range of abilities is also supplied. Finally, initial observations of DMT applied in Kuching, Malaysia, are shared with concluding suggestions for success within this particular cultural and social context. This chapter is aimed at the new practitioner looking for a starting point resource as well as parents, teachers, and educators who may be thinking about implementing DMT into a child's routine or programme.
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Introduction

Introducing Dance Movement Therapy

Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) has been in mainstream practice since the 1940s, officially being recognised as a beneficial therapy for children with disabilities in the mid 1970s via the U.S federal government's Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 194-42; 1975). DMT is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance as a means to “further emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration” (ADMPUK, 2013; ADTA, 2013). The basis of this approach stems from the belief and principle that expressive movement has the ability to reflect one's thoughts and feelings, which can then be developed on in a nurturing and safe environment (ADMPUK, 2013). With respect to the ASD child; DMT provides an opportunity to generate, encourage and expand non-verbal expression (ADTA, 2013). This has the potential to facilitate contact and bridge communication divides while engaging in a non-threatening, structured yet flexible, creative and enjoyable leisure process – teasing out responses to music, gentle physical manipulation and visual cues. While DMT is not a substitute for a thorough intervention programme, its benefits do make it a worthwhile complementary to an existing one.

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