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Healing Children Through Music And Dance

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Robyne Stone-Davis (pictured with tambourine) says dance/movement therapy can help young children express feelings.
SAMHSA
Robyne Stone-Davis (pictured with tambourine) says dance/movement therapy can help young children express feelings.

By Rebecca Sheir

A new federal study indicates that behavioral and emotional problems decrease among nearly a third of young children with mental-health challenges, within six months of receiving age-appropriate care. Some local care providers are encouraging the parents of these children to consider music and dance therapy.

Dr. Andrea Farbman runs the American Music Therapy Association in Silver Spring, Maryland. She says talk therapy can be effective for many young people.

"But for a 3-year-old, or a 5-year-old, you know, 'lay down on the couch and tell me, how are your feeling?' No!," says Farbman.

Farbman and her patients might write songs, or perform songs.

"You know, actions speak louder than words; music speaks louder than words," she says."

But Robyne Stone-Davis, a dance/movement therapist at D.C.'s School for Arts in Learning, says actions can be effective, too.

"Children's first language is not English or French or Spanish: its movement," says Stone-Davis. "They relate to the environment around them with their bodies.

That's why Stone-Davis uses dance, posture and movement to connect with children who otherwise might not be able to communicate.

And Dr. Gary Blau, a clinical psychologist with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, encourages these kinds of alternatives to talk therapy.

"There's been some research and other kinds of information that has been able to show that whether its through art, music and dance, that it actually can help improve a child's self-esteem, and ultimately their functioning," says Blau.

Especially if children start at a young age. SAMHSA's study indicates that young children who enter kindergarten with effective social skills have an easier time developing relationships, and do better in school.

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