The Effects of Dance on Social and Motor Performance of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Children with ASD display significant impairments in social communication as well as sensori-motor abilities. However, the majority of ASD interventions focus on improving social communication and behavioral skills and less focus is placed on sensori-motor impairments. We believe that a multisystem approach involving high engagement, social interactions (non-verbal and verbal), as well as sensori-motor experiences will address the needs of the whole child. In the present study, we used creative movement/dance to promote social communication and motor skills, such as imitation quality, whole body coordination, social attention, and emotional understanding.
We evaluated the effects of an 8-week dance intervention provided by dance experts on the social and motor skills of school-age children with ASD between 6 and 12 years of age.
13 children with ASD between 6 and 12 years of age received 8 weeks of training (2-3 sessions per week) involving a variety of dance activities. Each 45-minute training session comprised of various training conditions: hello, warm up, idea dance, partner dance, creating, and chance dance/farewells. We examined the smile rates, percent duration of attention to social partners, as well as verbalization quantity/quality during the first, mid, and last training sessions. We also coded for social and motor improvements before and after training during a standardized praxis/motor assessment.
Our preliminary analysis of 2/3rds of the sample suggests that children found the intervention to be enjoyable as seen by an increase in smile rates, words per minute, as well as more spontaneous and functional verbalization following training. During the creativity condition during training and generalized testing, children with ASD were more creative in generating new movements and required less prompting following training. Lastly, in terms of standardized testing before and after training children showed a reduction in spatial and temporal praxis errors when acquiring novel postures and while performing rhythmic actions.
Children with ASD improved their social communication and imitation/praxis skills following dance training as seen by greater smiling, increased spontaneous verbalizations, increased creativity scores, and reduced need for prompting by the trainer. In a standardized testing context, they showed improvements in praxis as seen by fewer spatio-temporal errors in the posttest compared to the pretest. Future studies must extend this work to a randomized controlled trial in a larger sample and a more intense training protocol.