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Negative outcomes as a result of trauma are multifaceted and can impact an individual throughout the lifespan. Younger children exposed to trauma are at higher risk for experiencing negative outcomes due to underdeveloped neurobiological capacities impacting their ability to appropriately respond to stressful stimuli (Price et al., 2013). Adversities including poor socio-emotional skills, mental and physical health challenges, and behavioral problems were identified among children exposed to trauma (Hovens et al., 2015). Occupational therapists are equipped to provide services for this vulnerable population by promoting socio-emotional skills necessary to cope with traumatic stressors through engagement in meaningful occupations. The occupation of dance was found to increase socio-emotional skills among trauma-based services, however, there is a lack of research that focuses on dance as an evidence-based intervention (Cook et al., 2005; Prieto, 2020). Furthermore, there are limited reports on occupation-based treatments specifically directed by an occupational therapist within the mental health setting (Cahill et al., 2020). The purpose of the project is to develop a strength-based dance program to promote socio-emotional skills for children exposed to trauma with an emphasis on the sensory system. The dance program was implemented at a community mental health program for children ages 4 to 5 once a week for 5 weeks. Based on the program results, staff and caregivers of the participants reported the most improvement in self-management skills. The staff members also reported improvement in social awareness, responsible decision-making skills, and body awareness. Practitioners should consider dance as a viable occupation-based treatment to improve socio-emotional skills in a variety of settings across the lifespan.

Publication Date



University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

Medical Subject Headings

Occupational Therapy, Dancing, Mental Health, Perception, Emotional Regulation, Physical Fitness


Child Psychology | Dance Movement Therapy | Mental and Social Health | Occupational Therapy | Psychiatry and Psychology


Poster presented at the Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium, held online at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences April 12-14, 2022

Promoting Socio-Emotional Skills Through a Strength-Based Dance Program for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma