The Effectiveness of Dance/Movement Therapy Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

  • Hideki TakahashiEmail author
  • Kanae Matsushima
  • Toshihiro Kato


The use of dance/movement therapy (DMT) as a treatment modality for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been studied extensively since the 1970s. This systematic review of studies published between 1970 and 2018 aims to (a) verify the quality of DMT and ASD studies using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, and (b) evaluate the effectiveness of DMT interventions for individuals with ASD. Keyword analyses of four electronic databases—Medline, Pubmed, Cinahl, and Springer Link—were used to select the studies examined in this research study, with seven selected according to specific conditions. Two studies after 2016 were identified as having the highest level of evidence at level 2b on the scale of The Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine: Levels of Evidence. Two studies conducted before 1985 were lower than level 4. Five studies after 2015 were found to have either fair or low risk of bias according to the Assessment of Controlled Intervention Studies developed by National Institutes of Health. Two pre-1985 studies were evaluated as having a high risk of bias. While this study found that the quality of DMT and ASD studies has improved in recent years, future research must demonstrate greater scientific rigor in documenting the efficacy of DMT treatment interventions. It also found that imitation (mirroring) interventions helped individuals with ASD improve their social skills.


Dance movement therapy Autism spectrum disorder Imitation Mirroring Social skills Systematic review 



I am grateful to Cathy Appel for her helpful comments and suggestion on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© American Dance Therapy Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hideki Takahashi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kanae Matsushima
    • 1
  • Toshihiro Kato
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Health Science Department of Brain Function and RehabilitationGraduate School of Medicine Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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