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Autism. 2015 Apr;19(3):338-50. doi: 10.1177/1362361314522353. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Fixing the mirrors: a feasibility study of the effects of dance movement therapy on young adults with autism spectrum disorder.

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University of Heidelberg, Germany SRH University Heidelberg, Germany
University of Heidelberg, Germany.
Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Germany.
SaloAG, Germany.


From the 1970s on, case studies reported the effectiveness of therapeutic mirroring in movement with children with autism spectrum disorder. In this feasibility study, we tested a dance movement therapy intervention based on mirroring in movement in a population of 31 young adults with autism spectrum disorder (mainly high-functioning and Asperger's syndrome) with the aim to increase body awareness, social skills, self-other distinction, empathy, and well-being. We employed a manualized dance movement therapy intervention implemented in hourly sessions once a week for 7 weeks. The treatment group (n = 16) and the no-intervention control group (n = 15) were matched by sex, age, and symptom severity. Participants did not participate in any other therapies for the duration of the study. After the treatment, participants in the intervention group reported improved well-being, improved body awareness, improved self-other distinction, and increased social skills. The dance movement therapy-based mirroring approach seemed to address more primary developmental aspects of autism than the presently prevailing theory-of-mind approach. Results suggest that dance movement therapy can be an effective and feasible therapy approach for autism spectrum disorder, while future randomized control trials with bigger samples are needed.


autism spectrum disorder; body awareness; clinical controlled trial; dance movement therapy; embodiment; empathy; intersubjectivity; mirroring; self–other distinction; social competence; treatment manual; well-being

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