For most of my life, dancing has been a very scary prospect for me. I did not understand it whatsoever. I would watch people dance, and I didn't get "it." I didn't understand what people were doing, and it looked very hard to me. And, to be honest, I thought dancing was stupid.
Sometimes, I did try to dance...for like a full two minutes. I was embarrassed. I felt stupid. This was at a high school dance. I was too afraid to ask anyone to dance with me. I was lost.
Many years later in 2007 when I was 21 years old, I decided to try and learn Salsa. I took lessons, but I found it to be very fast paced, and I was scared to make mistakes, and I just wasn't getting "it." I didn't understand this whole dancing thing, and dancing just felt super complex to me.
Then, now many years later again in 2011, I have decided to try Blues Dancing which is slower than Salsa, for the most part. I think you can do fast paced Blues though if you really wanted to. I don't know what it is. But, I guess I was just more open or something this time, and I think all the meditation I've done and everything else has helped me, and I seem to be picking up on Blues Dancing fairly well. I mean, I'm still a beginner and when I watch the other guys dance, I cringe that I am nowhere as good as them, but at least I am trying this out and sticking to it.
Which now finally leads me to the topic of today's question: "Can Dance Help People with Autism?"
To be honest, I think dance can be very helpful for people with autism and for many reasons which I will cover. First, I think for many people with autism, we have balance issues. I know this isn't the case for all, but for the majority of us with autism we have problems with balance and hand eye coordination. And, I think dance can help develop coordination. Now, what dance is best for teaching coordination, I'm not sure. I don't think Salsa though would be the best dance to start off with for someone that has this problem. Though, I will admit this, after trying Blues Dancing, I actually want to try Salsa again and give other dances a try as well. So, for me, Blues has been a good gateway to dancing. I'm not sure if Blues would be a good gateway into dancing for other people. But, for me, it is, and I'm inspired now to try out many forms of dancing. Now, I just have to commit myself to following up on that.
Moving on, I also think that dancing helps many of us "get out of our minds." What I mean by this, is that for many of us that we think too much and this sometimes causes us too much anxiety. I know this is a problem for me. I actually think it is this reason that dancing has been scary for me in the past because I am "in my mind" so much. Now, this still sometimes poses a problem because I overthink sometimes while dancing, and I'm afraid to try something new out. I'm super worried of making a mistake, or sometimes, I'm just not sure what will happen if I try and make a certain move. I get super embarrassed when I make mistakes, but this is not a good thing. How am I to grow and learn if I don't allow myself to make mistakes?
Which leads me to my next point, for many of us with autism, we feel like we need to get it right the first time, and if we don't, then that means we have "failed forever." I know I'm not alone in this line of thinking. I have met other people on the spectrum who also feel this way. This is very unfortunate when it comes to dancing because for me, anyway, I feel like I have to get "the moves' right the first time and be the very best, and if don't then I have massively failed, and I should give up. Yes, I still feel this way, but luckily, I am becoming smarter and now I realize it is okay to make mistakes. Okay, I still need to work on that, but I'm becoming better.
Anyway, what I am getting at, is that with dancing, you need to let go of your mind and become more instinctual. With dancing, you try and become one with the beat (I think). And, for me anyway, this is a very different experience. It doesn't feel autistic like. It is like dancing causes my autism mind to surrender. So, I believe that for other people with autism that if they give dancing a try that parts of our autism thought process will be drowned out because dancing is so different. I'm not sure if that makes sense to you, but I understand what I am saying here. If you need clarification on this, just ask me.
Now, I know for many of us with autism, we might be slow and cautious to do something, so the impact of dancing might not be apparent. But, I think with time that someone with autism can really learn to tap into a dormant part of them, and I think that when we tap into this aspect of ourselves we grow and evolve. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if dancing can actually help people with autism intellectually. I don't know, but I just get the feeling that some forms of dancing can really make different parts of our brain to work together that normally don't. That's how I feel anyway just after a few nights of Blues Dancing. Maybe I'm onto something.
And finally, I believe that dancing can increase creativity in people with autism. For me, I see that dancing gives me an opportunity to explore another dimension of myself. I feel like that if I do take a risk and try out a new move then I am being creative. But, I also believe that when one becomes creative at dancing then they also become creative in other areas in their life. Now, for me, I am afraid to actually try new dance moves out. For many of us with autism, we are afraid to try out anything that is new. New experiences really take us out of our comfort zone. But, I also realize that if I am to be a writer, then I must be creative and being creative involves trying new things and taking risks.
So, maybe, I don't know what I'm talking about, and maybe I realize that if you are a creative person then it can make you more creative, or it can reveal blockages in your creativity. You see, I think my fear of trying new dance techniques is a blockage of creativity in some other aspect in my life. So, I need to learn to let go, and just go with the dancing and take risks and be creative even if my creativity doesn't work out the first time. Most first drafts for writings aren't all that great. And, right now, I am in the rough draft stage of learning to dance. So, I need to keep this in mind. I have this mantra, and I think I need to apply it to dancing just as I apply it to all areas of my life. This mantra is "Enthusiasm! Confidence! And, out of the comfort zone!"
So, can dance help people with autism? I believe it can. I'm still in the baby stages of getting into dancing. But, I can already see other areas of my life actually improving because I'm taping into an aspect of myself that I have never or rarely tapped into. So, I think the same can be true for other people on the autism spectrum. Now, what dance to recommend to start someone off with autism? I'm not really sure yet. I really need to dabble into more forms of dancing and get more comfortable with it before I can truly know. But, I am enjoying learning Blues Dancing.
With that said, I thank you for reading today's blog entry! I thank you very much and wish you a most awesome day of awesomeness!