Movement and Music Therapies for Autism

Christina Devereux  site

The American Dance Therapy Association is building a Youtube channel that will include TED-type talks about dance/movement therapy with different populations.

The first of the videos was posted in honor of Autism Awareness Month: a 12-minute talk about dance/movement therapy and autism by Christina Devereaux, PhD, LCAT, LMHC, BC-DMT, NCC, who eloquently describes the capacity of dance /movement therapy to produce treatment outcomes in the area of social relationships, and particularly in their formation. Understanding bodily cues and joining in those movements enables a playful dialogue of movement that leads to connection. Then behavior patterns can be channeled towards social engagement. Click here to view the video on dance/movement therapy and autism.

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Click here to view a short and fun video demonstration on how rhythm and movement go together by board-certified music therapist, Kat Fulton.

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Click here to read the full 2013 review article from Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, entitled: A review of “music and movement” therapies for children with autism: embodied interventions for multisystem development. 

Authors Srinivasan and Bhat from the University of Connecticut summarized their research in the abstract below:

The rising incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) has led to a surge in the number of children needing autism interventions. This paper is a call to clinicians to diversify autism interventions and to promote the use of embodied music-based approaches to facilitate multisystem development. Approximately 12% of all autism interventions and 45% of all alternative treatment strategies in schools involve music-based activities. Musical training impacts various forms of development including communication, social-emotional, and motor development in children with ASDs and other developmental disorders as well as typically developing children. In this review, we will highlight the multisystem impairments of ASDs, explain why music and movement therapies are a powerful clinical tool, as well as describe mechanisms and offer evidence in support of music therapies for children with ASDs. We will support our claims by reviewing results from brain imaging studies reporting on music therapy effects in children with autism. We will also discuss the critical elements and the different types of music therapy approaches commonly used in pediatric neurological populations including autism. We provide strong arguments for the use of music and movement interventions as a multisystem treatment tool for children with ASDs. Finally, we also make recommendations for assessment and treatment of children with ASDs, and provide directions for future research.