At Denise Gucwa’s School of Dance in Lederach, Pennsylvania, music and movement are the key factors in leading a group of children with autism.
This dance studio is the first in Pennsylvania to offer Autism Movement Therapy (AMT), which combines sensory technique that promotes communication between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, improving behavior, communication and social skills.
Because the activity of dance uses both sides of the brain to remember patterns and process movements, it can act like a different form of therapy for these students. The studio also welcomes entire families to participate in the program.
With families signing up, there has already been a positive response of the program. With small classroom sizes, there is less of a risk of overstimulation for the students involved. With a separate entrance that leads to the AMT room, students can also avoid the crowds and busy areas where the other dancers are.
In the class, students start by practicing movements like bending, swaying and simple motions. In the loco motor segment, students start skipping, running and other more intense movements across the floor. Once everyone is gathered in a circle, each student becomes a leader, guiding the others through a series of movements and sounds. Finally, freeze dance allows the students to express their independence and freedom to move about however they choose.
With the growing number of certified AMT instructors across the country, there are more opportunities for students with autism to take advantage of these types of classes.