Physical, cognitive, psychological and social effects of dance in children with disabilities: systematic review and meta-analysis

Tamara May, Emily S. Chan, Ebony Lindor, Jennifer McGinley, Helen Skouteris, David Austin, Jane McGillivray, Nicole J. Rinehart

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To date it is unclear whether the physical, cognitive, psychological and social benefits of dance extend to children with disabilities. Method: This systematic review synthesised empirical research on the effect of non-therapy dance programs on children with physical and developmental disabilities. Results: Nineteen studies met inclusion criteria, including 521 participants aged 3–18 years and adapted dance programs with duration ranging from 7–78 hours. Sixteen studies had weak methodology. Most examined physical outcomes with improvements in 17/23 areas and meta-analyses showing significant medium to large effects for balance and jumping skills. Positive effects were also indicated for psychological, cognitive and social domains from the few available studies. Conclusion: Existing literature is heterogeneous and of poor quality but indicates dance may have physical, cognitive and psychosocial benefits for children with disabilities.Implications for rehabilitation To date the benefits of dance for children with disabilities have not been systematically synthesised. Dance may have physical, cognitive and psychosocial benefits for children with disabilities. Further research into psychosocial benefits in particular is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • children
  • Dancing
  • developmental disabilities
  • disability
  • intellectual disability
  • systematic review

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