Dancing Out For a Voice: ASD


The main focus of my research is to investigate how we can use physical activity as a vehicle to enhance communication skills and social development in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Dance is a type of physical activity or ‘coordinated movement’ that exists in the form of art; teaching the importance of bodily movements and gestures, whilst simultaneously thriving in the non-verbal realm of communication. Therefore, we are attempting to utilise elements of dance, specifically mirroring and rhythm, to help enhance social development in autistic children.

Due to the onset of COVID-19, we are keen to explore how we can optimise physical activity and communication skills in the home environment. More specifically, we are interested in whether dance-based exergames (online/virtual games) can produce beneficial social-communicative outcomes for children diagnosed with ASD within the home environment. As a result, we are conducting a research project focusing on the use of a dance-based exergame intervention; incorporating physical activity, mirroring, and rhythm, for children diagnosed with ASD. At the end of the project, we hope to show that dance-based exergames can have a positive effect on children’s communication skills and social development. We anticipate our research will have an encouraging and beneficial impact for the autistic community, and inspire children to be physically active, whilst enhancing their social development.


Currently in the UK, it is estimated that one in every 100 children has a diagnosis of ASD. ASDs are characterised by deficits in social communication and social interaction, alongside repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. There are few therapeutic interventions that successfully target some of the functionally impairing symptoms associated with autism; such as limited communication. However, we hope that our research project will address this issue.

As it stands, there are few robust studies that confirm exergames are beneficial for developing social-communicative skills in children diagnosed with ASD. However, given that multiple studies show the benefits of physical activity and dance for autistic children, it seems plausible that a dance-based exergame could produce positive social-communicative outcomes. Therefore, we can’t wait to test our hypothesis and hopefully, confirm that exergames are beneficial for developing social-communicative skills in autistic children. This would mean that parents, teachers, carers, or therapists can confidently use dance-based exergames to help improve their child’s social development.


In order to achieve our final project a series of outputs are first needed:

  1. We will first need to systematically review the literature surrounding the use of exergames for children diagnosed with ASD and produce a report detailing this. Completed: pre-print freely available.

  2. Using the data from the systematic review we will devise an informative project proposal. Currently finalising.

  3. We will then hold a small consultation with experts in the field, parents of children diagnosed with ASD, and autistic individuals to discuss and refine our project. Please contact me if you would be interested in partaking in the consultation.

  4. Next, we will need to apply for ethics – this will protect and ensure the safety of all participants throughout the duration of our project.

  5. We will then need to recruit participants who have a diagnosis of ASD, and inform them and their parents of the details of the project.

  6. Finally, we will need to carry out observations and assessments of all participants, who consent to take part in the exciting project, to measure their communication skills.


At the end of a project, we hope to show that a dance-based exergame intervention is successful at improving social-communication skills in children, who have a diagnosis of ASD. We will know this by analysing the data we collect both pre-intervention and post-intervention, and comparing them. The results should show an increase in communication skills post-intervention, in comparison to pre-intervention.

Proposed Start Date: 05/01/2021

Proposed Completion Date: 05/10/2022

Publications associated with Dancing out for a Voice: ASD

Preprint: The Non-Fitness-Related Benefits of Exergames for Young Individuals Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

The Effectiveness of Mirroring- and Rhythm-Based Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review

Preprint: Dancing Out for a Voice: A Narrative Review of the Literature Exploring Autism, Physical Activity and Dance

Preprint: Parent-reported social-communication changes in Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

Dance, rhythm, and autism spectrum disorder: An explorative study