Jonathan Baron reveals how dance can boost the resilience and confidence of students with autism

Stereotypes of autism often reinforce misinformation about the condition and limit what people with autism think they can achieve. I have found that involving students in dance, and particularly dance performances, is one really effective way of helping them to combat these negative perceptions; through dance, students at my school are encouraged to enter into situations and environments, both on and off-stage, that they typically would not encounter. Doing so repeatedly greatly boosts their confidence and helps reduce self-doubt. 

The benefits of dance
As well as improving fitness and coordination, dance provides a multitude of benefits for students with autism and teaches them a range of transferable skills which better prepare them for life outside the classroom.

Concentration and coordination 
Dance requires a high level of concentration, especially when working towards performances. Repetition of dance moves and routines allows students to improve their focus and concentration, which they are then able to apply in more academic subject areas.

Taking part in dance can have a positive effect on wellbeing.

In addition, dance helps students retain information and it improves their balance, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and spatial awareness. These skills can really help students in other practical subjects, such as physical education and woodwork, in which physical coordination and self-awareness are key. 

Mental health and wellbeing
As well as the physical benefits, dance can help to improve the mental health and wellbeing of students with autism. It provides them with a medium through which they can freely express themselves using a wide variety of emotions; students gain a sense of empowerment, achievement and belonging – all of which helps them think more positively.  

Social skills and teamwork 
Through dance, students learn about appropriate emotional conduct, teamwork and self-discipline. These are valuable skills for personal development and, crucially, they can be applied in other school subjects and also later on in life.  

Resilience and perseverance 
By taking part in dance, students start to understand and embrace mistakes; they learn that mistakes are an inevitable part of life and can often lead to success. Leading up to a performance, students may spend months practiscing a routine. Rather than focusing on perfecting the moves, it is important to ensure students are as prepared as possible, which minimises the potential for mistakes occurring on stage. While they are learning a routine, students’ can experience frustration and anger and they may express a desire to give up. By refusing to admit defeat and by eventually succeeding, students learn to be resilient and to keep going. This kind of resilience can be really useful when applied to academic subjects such as maths, science and English. As one student commented, “Well maths was hard today, but it wasn’t as hard as learning this routine.”

Jonathan Baron
Author: Jonathan Baron

Jonathan Baron
+ posts

Jonathan Baron is a dance teacher at Hillingdon Manor School, an independent specialist school for children on the autism spectrum run by Options Autism:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here