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“Our child needs support, she won’t look or communicate with people”

My client was a four-year old child diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum Disorder. She presented with repetitive hitting behaviors, no words, no eye contact, and little awareness of others. To engage with her, let’s transform our mind to build a castle for a princess. First, the frame needs to be built horizontally for foundation and comfort; Next, the walls must be placed vertically to allow for stature, and presence in the community; Then finally, the drawbridge needs to be able to open/close sagittally, to welcome only the kindest suitors.

The session structure followed this order; we started with horizontal movement. We sat in two separate areas of the room. The child placed any items she’d found (shoes, toys, scarves) around her, just like the foundation walls. She seemed to be protecting herself in a new territory. I paralleled this on my side, mirroring and reflecting back her own ideas. In time, she initiated vertical and sagittal movement. She stood up and peeked over her walls, we explored each other’s space and moved with the same rhythm and timing. We began to share as she reached out and pressed our hands together, connecting with me and allowing me to join in her castle walls. We connected our two spaces together and joined in a dance. We made eye contact! We laughed! She went from hitting walls and her body to using the same hitting rhythm to build, share, and connect.

The emphasis on timing (using the pattern of her preferred hitting to create movement to safely connect), the analogy of the castle and the Dance/Movement Therapy planes of movement (Horizontal, Vertical, Sagittal), allowed me to engage with her. She ultimately made sounds and we created new rituals where she could anticipate my actions. This eventually led to further learning and problem solving. Often, with a child identified on the Autism Spectrum, experts talk about finding the gleam in the child’s eyes, that moment when the child makes a connection. By utilizing the Body Knowledge to move within these specific movement planes and joining the child, as if moving up a developmental ladder, the child makes instant progress and that gleam shines through.

Do you know of a child who could use support? Everyday I work with children of all ages and their families in my inviting, tranquil setting to help them improve their lives. Email me at therapy@drloribaudino.com or call me at (310) 966-0700 to schedule your time.

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