Movement and Synchrony in Interactions By Adolescents and Adults in Dance/Movement Therapy

Friday, May 15, 2015: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Imperial Ballroom (Grand America Hotel)
E. Manders1, S. C. Koch2, S. Goodill1, M. Polansky3, K. Fisher4, E. Giarelli5 and T. Fuchs6, (1)Creative Arts Therapies, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, (2)Faculty for Therapeutic Sciences, SRH Hochschule Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany, (3)Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, (4)Nursing, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, (5)Doctoral Nursing, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, (6)University of Heidelberg Medical Clinic, Heidelberg, Germany
Background:  Even higher functioning individuals with ASD struggle with nonverbal aspects of interactions.  Limited interactional synchrony, which is associated with rapport, may contribute to this difficulty.  One potential intervention is dance/ movement therapy (DMT) as it uses movement to address nonverbal relational skills including coordination with another person.

Objectives:  To 1) assess the relationship between synchrony and interaction quality, 2) explore other movement qualities related to success in the interactions, and 3) observe change over 10 weeks of DMT.

Methods:  This mixed methods secondary analysis used a multiple single subject design with embedded qualitative descriptions to investigate the movement and interactions of six participants in DMT.  Participants were 4 males and 2 females, 14-42 years-old, with an ASD diagnosis, and an IQ of at least 70.  The partners were other participants with ASD or research assistants of the parent study. For the current study, raters blind to session number rated either interaction or synchrony scales for four 30-second clips of partnered mirroring and open-ended partnered dances per session.  Quantitative scales measured five types of movement synchrony and interaction quality (Affective Engagement and Flow of the Interaction; Garcia-Perez, Lee, & Hobson, 2007).  All raters wrote descriptions of the video, with raters trained in movement observation listing specific movement qualities used by the participants.  This was analyzed by participant and across participants using visual inspection of SSD graphs, correlations, and qualitative analyses.

Results:   All participants received the highest or second highest score on the 5-point Affective Engagement scale at least once.   Visual inspection of graphs of each participant showed high variability across sessions with different partners. Change over time was only noted in one participant who had the same partner for five sessions. Together with the qualitative descriptions, this suggests that the partner plays a role in interpersonal synchrony and the participant’s engagement. Initial qualitative analyses suggest that the partner can support more successful engagement by introducing movements at the right level of challenge for that participant.  The two interaction scales were positively correlated across participants, rs(69)=.760, p<.001.  Synchrony scales were significantly correlated with interaction quality scales for some participants. Repeated paired t-tests of correlation values across participants, raters, and synchrony types showed that synchrony was correlated positively and significantly more with scores on Flow of Interaction than with scores on Affective Engagement. This demonstrates a specific relationship between movement synchrony and Flow of Interaction.

Conclusions:  Given the right conditions, these participants could demonstrate affective engagement with their partner.  The partner’s role suggests that therapists and others should be purposefully matched to the individual.  As DMT can specifically address movement synchrony, it may be an appropriate treatment to improve the flow of interactions by individuals with ASD.   Further studies with a larger sample size and consistent partner pairings are needed to assess change over time and test for generalization.


Garcia-Perez, R.M., Lee, A., & Hobson, R.P. (2007). On intersubjective engagement in autism: A controlled study of nonverbal aspects of conversation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(7), 1310-1322. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0276-x