Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bringing Brighter, Better Days: Westwood's Autism Workshop Spotlights the Incredible Benefits of Dance

by Nancy LaPierre

Author-therapist Victoria Marin, who features her autistic son in her popular children’s book, Aiden’s Waltz, brought her Waltz For Wellness workshop to the Westwood Fred Astaire Dance Studio on Saturday, October 13, to shed light on the benefits of ballroom dance for those on the autism spectrum.

Ms. Marin’s presentation teaches teachers, participants, and their caregivers about the healing powers of ballroom dance to relieve autistic symptoms, transform related behaviors, and bring about improved physical condition, better social skills and a much brighter outlook on life.

Jaclyn Laurino, a Westwood FADS professional dance teacher,  teaches Bryan to dance
‘Timothy,’ a 20-year old workshop participant, had never tried ballroom dancing before. He seemed nervous at first, telling his mother he wanted to go back home. But after the presentation, he asked to join the dance teacher on the dance floor. Immediately, his demeanor and postured changed. His rounded-shoulder stance changed. He stood upright. He was smiling even giddy at times. With tactile prompting from his instructor, he learned the basic steps of the waltz within minutes. 

Ballroom dance helps strengthen the core, leading to better posture. This reduces pressure on the lungs and improves breathing and oxygen levels for people who spend time in wheelchairs. A strong core and strong shoulder girdle make fine motor movements easier so eating and handwriting skills improve. Muscle conditioning develops coordination and balance for walking, running, dressing, and enjoying leisure and sports activities.

And there’s more:

  • communication partners engage in eye contact, invite their partners to the dance floor and discuss the dance process
  • friendships dancers develop and nurture a trusting relationship with their partners
  • self-confidence we teach dance steps in the method that is best suited to autistic learners. Mastering steps and movements leads dancers to feelings of success and accomplishment
  • mental processing ballroom dancing to classical music opens brain pathways and improves mental organization and learning

Ms. Marin’s informative one-hour workshop includes a PowerPoint presentation and a 15-minute dance lesson for participants. To schedule a workshop, please contact her at (845)200-4101, or via email at

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