We’ve often written about using music therapy with aphasia, but we’ve never covered music’s constant partner: dance. The music starts playing and suddenly your body wants to start moving. Go ahead and let it: Dance, as they say, as though no one is watching.

Dance Strengthens Your Brain

Dance isn’t just a form of creative expression. Movement can actually strengthen your brain, which may help in retaining speech with primary progressive aphasia. One study looked at how dance affected the brain:

Researchers from the University of Illinois compared three groups of older adults who walked briskly, stretched, or took dance classes. The first two groups had degeneration in the brain, but the group that danced had improved processing speed and memory.

Physically moving can sometimes hold onto words as well as get those words flowing.

A Happy Discovery

At Nova Southeastern University, an aphasia dance class inspired participants to sing with the music as they danced with their partner. While they may have had difficulty speaking while standing still, the words came to them when they began to sing.

The head of the aphasia group found how much dance could help with aphasia by accident:

He began supervising this aphasia group in late 2015. Two members—and their respective spouses—happened to be competitive ballroom dancers. DiCarlo had used theater and music to successfully challenge and motivate patients in the past, so he didn’t hesitate to tap into his current clients’ talents as a way to focus treatment for the entire group.

Most importantly, the head of the group states: “Creative ideas need to relate to treatment. We still created formal speech goals, but the material we used to achieve them was outside of the box.” The goal of speech came first. The way to get there was through dance.

You don’t need to wait for a formal class to see if dance can unlock your words. Put on some music and hold an impromptu dance session in your living room. Go to dance performances and use them as a subject for discussion in speech therapy. Allow yourself to fully feel the music and move in time, seeing if you can sing what you’re unable to say.

Have you ever used dance to express yourself?

June is Aphasia Awareness Month. We’re taking this month to look at off-the-beaten-path ways that people are treating aphasia using the fine arts. Whether you’re on the stage, behind the easel, or viewing a sculpture or performance, there are plenty of ways that people are leaning on creativity to help restore speech. This is the third of four posts in this series. You can read about visual art and creative writing.