Dance Therapy for Disabled Youth

Topics: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Down syndrome, Dance therapy Pages: 6 (2086 words) Published: August 25, 2013
and 230.100 ROUGH DRAFT #2Charlotte Wright

Dance Therapy as a Treatment for Disabilities and Disorders in Young People

When Amy arrives to dance class, she is always full of energy, leaping about and chatting away to each and every one of her class mates. When Amy leaves dance class, she is relaxed, placid, and seemingly peaceful. The next week, the same thing happens. While Amy, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of seven, has only been attending my dance class for six weeks, I can already see that dancing has the ability to calm her hyperactivity, tire her energetic body, and affect her self-esteem. My personal experience with Amy has interested me in the benefits of dance and movement as a form of therapy. In particular, young people with disabilities or disorders, such as ADHD and Down Syndrome. This essay will look at the effects of dance and movement based therapy on young people with disabilities and disorders, and analyse how this method is more beneficial than other modes of treatment, such as medication, which can have serious side effects.

According to the American Dance Therapy Association, “dance therapy has been around for more than 50 years and helps connect the body and mind. It’s also effective for individuals with developmental, physical, social, psychological or physiological impairments.” Dance and movement based therapy has been a relatively recent approach to treatment of disorders and disabilities in young people. The development of motor skills and cognitive functions in young people can be altered or slowed down, if they are subject to a disability or disorder (Claros and Alvare, 2012). Many young people living with disabilities such ADHD, or disorders such as Down Syndrome, have delays in either or many of mental, social and physical growth. Many types of therapy as well as different physical activities have been trialed and tested on such people, including musical therapy, dance therapy, martial arts participation and team sport participation. Dance and movement therapy has been proven to be a particularly beneficial form of therapy for these people, offering improvements in mental focus and concentration, as well as physical aspects such as balance and co-ordination. As this type of therapy involves movement of the limbs, stretching of the muscles, listening to timing of music and communication skills, both the left and right sides of the brain and stimulated, resulting in a variety of positive impacts on brain and body health.

Dance, as well as other forms of exercise, can provide a valuable outlet for excess energy. Young people with ADHD, due to their disability, often have excess energy that needs to be released. The journal article, The Effect of Dance Practice on Health (2011), argues that dance is a therapeutic activity that is able to enhance focus and promote use of energy. Georgescu, Malkogeorgos, and Zaggelidou (2011), wrote that: Many parents and dance instructors believe that dance practice is therapeutic for children who have ADHD, characterized by impaired concentration and/or impulsive hyperactivity. Dancing promotes concentration and reduces impulsivity by requiring students to focus intensely on a physical activity, follow verbal and visual commands, and practice in a controlled, disciplined environment (p. 101-102). In making this comment, the authors believe that dance therapy can help control and lessen the severity of the symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity, with the ability to release excess energy, which is something that many parents might see as a priority for their child. A pilot study conducted by Karlstad University and the University College of Dance in Stockholm, tested dance and movement therapy on young boys with ADHD. The study displayed some positive results of dance and movement therapy, noting, “Dancing can significantly affect hyperactivity and behavioral issues among boys with...

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Armenian Medical Network. (2013). Dancing helps boys with ADHD. (June 8, 2006). Provided by ArmMed Media. Retrieved from,
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Wood, A. & Sacks, B. (2004) Overcoming sleep problems for children with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome News and Update. 2004;3(4);118-127. doi:10.3104/reviews.320
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