If you work with children and young people on the autism spectrum, have you ever tried using drama to develop their communication skills, life skills and self-confidence?
Abigail Barragry, the author of our Autism Arts series shares one of her favourite activities which is suitable to use with children and young people on any level of the autism spectrum: the ‘Feelings Dance’.
For young people with autism, the expression of feelings and the physical self are two areas which demand focus.
The 'body self' is fundamental to the well-being of all people, and it is something which can be difficult for those on the autism spectrum to comprehend. Allowing the body to explore and identify different emotions in a safe and fun environment may help children to feel more comfortable in themselves, to know themselves better and to be more aware of what is going on. It also helps to identify these feelings in others, which is a vital social skill. The Feelings Dance can be used with any level of development as it can be adapted as per the instructions. It gives children the chance to show how they feel without needing verbal language, and has the potential for group bonding every time it is used.
The Feelings Dance
Stand in a circle, play some music and lead the children in dancing/moving the body in a way that is:
Spend about a minute on each dance.
Encourage students to move the body or mirror the feeling in terms of energy and pace, speed, reaching high or flopping low.
Abigail Barragry has worked around the world using the arts as a tool to teach, empower and bring groups together. She has spent extensive time in Malaysia where she pioneered the use of drama in education and for psychosocial development. Abigail has given numerous presentations on the benefits of creativity and expression in mental health, and conducted extensive research on this area at the University of Malaya.
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