March 8, 2017

Temple Grandin and Joanne Lara
Temple Grandin and Joanne Lara

The course “Autism Movement Therapy”, taught by Joanne Lara, M.A., is now available online through Future Horizons Inc. Autism Center for Continuing Education. The 16 hour course may be accessed online through Future Horizons. Participants have 60 days to access the course. Upon completion, a participant will be certified as a Level 1 Autism Movement Therapy provider.

Autism Movement Therapy is a dance therapy technique that incorporates music and synchronized movement to assist the integration of both hemispheres of the brain. The technique was developed specifically for children with autism to help reinforce or rebuild neural pathways in the brain, resulting in reduced symptoms of autism and improved ability to think and communicate. Simple reciprocal, bilateral movements and mirroring techniques are included as a part of the program. Students work their way up to more advanced dance movements as they become proficient with basic routines.

According to testimonials, children who participate in Autism Movement Therapy display an improved ability to retrieve and retain information, as well as reduced sensory sensitivity, an improved ability to focus on specific tasks, and fewer negative behaviors. Specific research on the Autism Movement Therapy technique is not currently available, but research does exist on the effects of other movement therapies on children with autism, including swimming, yoga, and sensory integration techniques.  This is what Temple Grandin, PhD has to say:

“Programs like Joanne’s Autism Movement Therapy offer opportunities for our kids to develop the necessary and fundamental skills that benefit all our kids.  Art saved my life!”

Autism Movement Therapy was developed by Joanne Lara, who is an adjunct professor in the Special Education Department at National University, Los Angeles, California. She holds a master’s degree in special education from California State University, Northridge, and a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of South Florida. Ms. Lara taught special education in the Los Angeles School District for 10 years, where she worked exclusively with students with autism. She also taught dance in the Los Angeles Unified School District Arts Prototype Program, where she was able to develop the Autism Movement Therapy techniques. She is the founder of Autism Movement Therapy and acts as director of the organization’s behavioral ABA branch in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Lara has written numerous articles about environmental toxins and autism, and presents certification workshops in Autism Movement Therapy throughout the United States.

The Autism Movement Therapy main center is located in Van Nuys, California. Other centers currently operate in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Canada, and the UK. The center offers certification workshops in Autism Movement Therapy, where practitioners may become certified at three different levels of the program.

The next available workshop is scheduled for October 12 and 13 in Los Angeles, California. The center also offers the DVD Aut-erobics, which offers students beginner, intermediate, and proficient movement routines to follow. This DVD is available for $22.99 US through the Autism Movement Therapy website, Autism Movement Therapy operates as a 501 c 3 non-profit organization and accepts donations through their website.

About the author 

Janet Meydam

Janet Meydam holds a B.S. degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and an M.S. degree in Occupational Therapy from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has worked in healthcare and education settings for 25 years and writes extensively about people who have disabilities.

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