THE FOLLOWING IS FROM A PAPER I WROTE RECENTLY FOR A DANCE MOVEMENT CLASS I TOOK IN BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA.
An Introduction to Medical Dance/Movement Therapy by Sharon W. Goodill
All psychosocial assessment needs to take into consideration the developmental level of the child, the systems in which the child lives, and individual characteristics of the child or adolescent. For children who have chronic disease, six developmentally ordered categories are attributed to the child’s understanding of their illness. In the pre-operational stage, the child’s idea of disease is based on catching the disease from somewhere. In the concrete operational stage, the child defines the difference between what is internal and what is external to the body. In the formal operations stage, the child will consider multiple possibilities for his or her disease. An understanding of the disease process can bring a sense of control to the child or adolescent. The emotional experience of being hospitalized can bring about behavioral and psychophysiological reactions like separation anxiety. Preschoolers tend to regress under the stress of hospitalization and resort to behaviors that pattern after “protest, despair, and detachment.” Older children will experience fear of pain and mutilation of their body. “With illness, pain, disfigurement, surgery or invasive procedures, the developing child’s attention and emotional energies are redirected to the affected body parts and zones, altering the formation of the body image accordingly.” Dance movement therapy treatment methods impact felt experiences for the child. Criteria for referral to dance therapy are observed body tension, immobility that is not the result of medical devices or medication, restlessness or lethargy. Pediatric medical dance/movement therapy aims to decrease anxiety connected to hospitalization and procedures, aids in the adjustment to the changes in the body, provides an active rather than passive experience with one’s own body, provides an environment where related feelings can be expressed safely, and address the total child and not just the disease or dysfunction. Facilitating movement impulses and play are important in medical dance movement therapy with children.