Deakin’s Child Care Centre is seeking children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to participate in an innovative project which uses movement to improve cognitive and physical abilities.
The AllPlay Dance program builds on the centre’s recent research which found dance programs could bring psychological, cognitive and social benefits for children with physical and developmental disabilities.
Published in the Disability and Rehabilitation Medical Journal, the systemic review evaluated 19 international studies involving 521 children. It is the first study to provide evidence on the benefits of “prescribing dance” to improve development.
Deakin Child Study Centre director Professor Nicole Rinehart, creator of the dance program, said the findings suggested a medium to large improvement in physical functioning for kids with disabilities who participated in dance, particularly in balance and jumping.
“Cognitive improvement was also found, specifically for attention, organisational skills and learning,” Prof Rinehart said.
“Additional benefits were recognised, including an increase in creativity. And for children with autism, dance was identified as a possible intervention to address aloofness and disconnection in social situations.
“But unfortunately many children with neurodevelopmental disorders and disabilities face barriers to participating in dance and have fewer opportunities to join recreational programs in the community than their typically-developing peers. Our program aims to change that, allowing every child in our community to experience the joy and benefits of dance.”
As part of the AllPlay Dance program – which will run out of Deakin’s Burwood campus – children with autism will be matched with experienced dance buddies across eight weekly sessions.
Children aged 8-12 who have a formal diagnosis of ASD without intellectual disability are encouraged to sign up for the project.
Prof Rinehart said the project will adopt neuroscience techniques to understand the “brain challenges” children with autism face.
For more information, visit allplaydance.org.au/asd-dancers.