Q & A with 4 Experts in the Dance and Autism Field

We sat down with our four DEL Facilitators of our upcoming course Dance with Children and Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum: Therapeutic and Educational Approaches (Catherine Gallant, MFA, Dr. Diane Duggan, PhD, BC-DMT, Tina Erfer, MS, BC-DMT, NCC, LCAT, Dr. Suzi Tortora, Ed.D, BC-DMT, CMA, LCAT, LMHC) to ask some important questions about their work and why this information is so needed for all educators.

Please read the entire interview below, and sign up for our upcoming course which runs May 15 – 23, 2021.  Register here!

What will people see, do, and learn in this workshop?

This course is aimed at dance educators, dance/movement therapists, dance/movement therapy students, and others who want to learn how to use dance and movement activities to support toddlers, children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Participants will learn how to recognize the characteristics of ASD, including early identification, and how to engage the strengths of these youngsters using therapeutic and educational approaches. The unique behaviors and learning styles of these children are examined to give students insight into how to create a multisensory environment for dance that is appropriate, safe, and meaningful. This approach aims to help these children achieve their highest potential on social/emotional, behavioral, physical, and educational levels. Four experts in the field of dance/movement therapy and dance education with extensive experience with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum teach this didactic and experiential course.

 … Tina Erfer


Why do you think all educators need to take this course?

All educators need to take this course to support inclusivity in the classroom. In addition, the activities used to support children with neuro diverse learning styles actually supports learning for all children.

… Suzi Tortora


What in your training has equipped you to work with this population? 

I have been worked with infants, children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum for 40 years.  Much of this work has included supporting parents to learn how to understand their child’s behaviors by using dance, movement and nonverbal observations as a means of communication. These dance/movement therapy dyadic sessions and inclusive group dance classes help build the parent-child attachment relationships and support the child’s socialization with their peers.  My training draws from an in-depth knowledge of infant mental health, neuroscience, dance/movement therapy principles and specific trainings in Greenspan and Wider’s

Floortime ™ and Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR ®) work specifically for chidren with ASD…

…Suzi Tortora


Can you share a rewarding moment or break-through moment in working with people with Autism?

One of the biggest breakthroughs in my understanding of work with children and adolescents with autism came very early in my career, in the early 1970’s.  I was a dance therapist and part of a team working with youngsters with long-standing and seemingly intractable behavior problems. Our team members talked about the problems but focused on the children’s strengths. Based on those strengths we devised plans for all of us to follow that, over time, were very effective in reducing and eliminating the seriously. challenging behaviors.  I learned from this the importance of teamwork and especially of focusing on a child’s strengths.

… Diane Duggan


What would you like dance educators to know about working with students with autism?

Working with students with ASD is an important opportunity for dance educators to meet students where they are and to re-evaluate priorities, finding new ways to engage students by acknowledging their unique views of the world, however different from our own.

… Catherine Gallant


What do you think is most misunderstood about working with students with autism?

What is most misunderstood about children with autism, and their behaviors, is that they are being “bad”, or misbehaving; or their behavior is “bad”. Behavior is an expression of needs, or wants. We need to understand the child, to know the meaning of their behavior. Also, people used to believe that those with autism are not able to form relationships. This is not true. Every person with autism is unique, there is no one way of being autistic. The terminology that is often being used these days is “neuro-diverse”, as opposed to “neuro-typical”

… Tina Erfer