To explore the effect of Dance Movement Therapy on Self Esteem, Anxiety and Social Skills in children with Special Needs- Swapnali. S. Kadam

Swapnali. S. Kadam


The purpose of the study was to study the effect of Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) as an intervention tool to explore Self Esteem, Anxiety and Social Skills in children with special needs. There were six boys in age group of 11-14 years of age who participated in the sessions. They attended the Dance movement therapy sessions from August 2017 to December 2017 for 72 days. It was formatted with an opening ritual, warm up, theme activity set on an objective, verbal processing/ closing ritual and cool down. The journey of the 72 hours was observed, recorded in written report, coded according to the need analysis.



Danceis the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, and it involves direct expression through body thus being a powerful medium for therapy. Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) as defined by American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA, 2015) and the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy (2013), it is a psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance to support intellectual, emotional, and motor functions of the body.

Disabilities is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. (World Health Organization, Disabilities). The study was conducted on a varied group of six students diagnosed and dealing with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Specific Learning Disorder, Downs syndrome (2 belonging to each) and 2 Slow Learners. It was decided to work on improving their Self Esteem and Social Skills and reduce the degree of anxiety present and experienced in various situations.



The sample group for the study was chosen by the school authorities depending on their need for working towards increasing their self-esteem, social skills and reducing their anxiety. Due to drawbacks in these two areas their school performance and social engagement was getting affected. Since their exams were approaching the school decided to send them to the therapy sessions in order to help them develop. All the six boys belonged to lower middle class families.

The group was very cooperative. Initially there was a lot of resistance coming up towards working together as the six belonged to different classes. Their body language improved, their response to instructions become very crisp and clearer. Group participation, leadership qualities, group focus, adaptability, creativity, physical stamina, social interaction, motivation and interest, awareness to each other’s energy levels and rhythm and synchrony increased during the second half of the sessions. Their anxiety seemed to be reduced that earlier, they had also started making use of the social skills learnt during the session which as a result increased their self-esteem to a greater extent.

Each one experienced something different from activities conducted. As the movement build in their bodies they found it easier to understand and experience the real motive behind the activities. They started coming up with themes for their upcoming sessions on their own.

They had started to mouth their opinions in front of others. They also started to explore more of their creative side along the process. Most of them had overcome their stage fright and took part in cultural activities which were held in their school. The assumption of self-worth had some drastic changes towards the end. The parents also had reported to the school teachers saying they could observe some changes in their behaviour at home. The effect of the sessions was also observed though not drastically on their academic performances as well.

During the last session, the whole group came up with the idea of showcasing a surprise performance using small things they learnt during the sessions as a token of appreciation for bringing out the positive change in them. They found a new love for movement and decided to stick to it forever.

The duration of 72 hours was more like a pilot study for this respective group as continuous and more detailed therapy would have helped them to overcome come the difficulties in many more areas and allow them to become more confident and outgoing in their day-to-day life.



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“Cooperative Games for Children with Special Needs.” Disability Grants,

Cunningham, Ed.M. Bob. “The Importance of Self-Esteem for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues.”,

Gleissner, Greta. “What Is Dance Movement Therapy?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 Apr. 2017,

“Up, Down, Stop, Go!” Teaching Ideas, 15 Oct. 2015,

Webster, Jerry. “Teaching Personal Space with a Free Printable Book.” ThoughtCo,

“What Are Social Skills?” Psychology Today, 18 Aug. 2011,

Willacy, Dr Hayley. “Disability in Childhood. Information about Disability in Childhood.” . Information about Disability in Childhood | Patient,,



Swapnali Shashikant Kadam is a clinical psychologist by profession and is inclined towards working with children, particulary children with special needs. Counseling and assessments are her ombre. Swapnali is currently working as a school counselor at Universal High School, Thane. As a part of her Master in Arts course she has presented thesis on impact of self-efficacy on self-esteem and perceived stress in parents of children having autism. She has successfully completed a Course in Dance Movement Therapy certified by CMTAI and CID UNESCO PARIS. Swapnali has an active participation in various international and national mental health workshops and conferences. Apart from her academic achievements she has a diploma in Bharatnatyam and has also learnt and showcased her versitality with various other dance forms on different platforms and events as well. In addition to dancing she is also a well versed singer. Dance and music along with other expressive arts are the excellent forms of expression is the ideology behind her work.


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