How many times have you heard therapists tell their clients, “Quiet hands. Quiet body.” There have been many occasions in my life where I was told to sit still, stop rocking, and stop moving my head. I realize that autistic people do not always have autonomy over their bodies. I know that it might look strange to others when we move our bodies differently in professional or work settings.
People always tell me there is a time and a place for movement. The motto for The Musical Autist’s sensory friendly concert is “hand flapping allowed,” and in our concerts people can move around in any way that they choose. In typical concert venues, people on the autism spectrum are forced to sit still and to clap when they are supposed to. If an autistic person vocalizes or makes any slight movements, the manager of the concert may ask them to leave. This puts an autistic person at a higher risk for a meltdown and fear of attending typical concerts. In our concerts, we allow dancing and moving freely as the person chooses.
As I have served on The Musical Autist’s executive board for eight years, I have come to the conclusion that movement is important for autistic people. The human body was created and designed to move from the very beginning. Think about this for a moment. When a baby is in utero, the baby starts kicking at the later stage of pregnancy. As the child grows, it learns to crawl and walk. The point I’m trying to make is that movement starts from inside the mother and lasts throughout life. Movement helps us calm down when we are in stressful situations. It is important that we make wise choices when it comes to how we move our bodies. When we can, it is important to try to keep our bodies regulated, and moving to music can be a helpful way to do that. Not only does The Musical Autist promote movement during our Sensory Friendly Concerts, but we also promote movement in Empowerment Jam Sessions and Troupe. There’s not a single person in our programs that sits still during musical experiences.
I believe it is very important for autistic people to have autonomy over how they move their bodies, whether it’s flapping their hands or dancing or shaking their heads. Movement is healthy for everyone whether you are on the autism spectrum or not. If we were constantly sitting still, we would look like we are frozen and rigid.
I challenge everyone on and off the autism spectrum to keep their bodies moving. When we keep our bodies moving, we are giving health to our bodies because movement is a sign of life. Moving our bodies is just one way that we can live life to the fullest, and be productive in everything that we do. I want to encourage everyone to keep on moving. Dance to your favorite song and stand up and always keep the life flowing through your veins.