Movement therapy helps autistic children

MONTROSE (KABC) Autism is a spectrum disorder, and ne thing we know about autism is that every child is different and not all therapies to help them will be effective.

Some of the latest research suggests autistic children need different types of stimulation to process information efficiently.

One local therapist with an expertise in dance and special education says her type of movement therapy seems to be helping some kids.

Following direction used to be impossible for 8-year-old Edward Whalen. Now, he's learning new dance steps.

"If it's easier for him, that's all I ask," said Erica Whalen, Edward's mother.

Edward was diagnosed with autism at age three. Besides temper tantrums and frustration, his mom says social skill impairment is his biggest challenge.

"He'd walk up to you and just start a conversation with you," said Erica. "Not, 'Hello, how are you?'"

There appeared to be a disconnect. But through dance and music, therapists say Edward is learning to bridge the gap.

"And there's a bridge between the left and right hemisphere that transmits information," said Joanne Lara, Autism Movement Therapy Founder. "What happens with our kids is that the transmission of the information is not going through."

Autism Movement Therapy founder Joanne Lara says dance and music forces the brain to reorganize itself.

"I'm asking through the music and the movement the child to hear the music, process the sequence and the patterns, and then dance," said Joanne. "So it takes both sides of the brain to dance."

Simple patterns, sequencing and repetition. This helps autistic kids process information. They know what to expect and the movements are predictable.

Lara says listening, learning and doing encourages the brain to build new pathways.

Edward's mom says the lessons appear to be helping her son with more than just dance.

"Suddenly he's acting a lot better," said Erica. "He's acting a lot normal. We don't know where his area of brilliance lies yet."

There are many different forms of autism, so experts say no one single therapy may be a good fit for every child.

And it's important to note that movement therapy may be just one facet of what helps a child with autism communicate better.

The Vibe Studio

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.