Aithal, Supritha

The unknown steerer of the windmill: The role of dance movement psychotherapy with the caregivers of children on the autism spectrum

Supritha Aithal

Co- Authors: Vicky Karkou, Stergios Makris, Themis Karaminis, Joanne Powell

Raising each child is an experiment with distinct experiences, delights, surprises and challenges. They are like the windmills who generate the source of energy for the healthy development of their offspring.  Parenting can turn out to be stressful when the demands surpass the expected and actual resources available to the parents that permit them to succeed in their role (Deater-DeckardNan ChenShereen El Mallah, 2015).   Stress levels of the parents of children on the autism spectrum could be challenged by the characteristics of autism, as well as challenges of expense, adaptations and the reduction in time for other relationships (Field, 2006; Hastings & Brown, 2002; Shapiro, 1983).  It is reported that these parents present lower psychological wellbeing and coping than the caregivers of children with other disabilities (Gallagher & Bristol, 1989). The bidirectional relationship between parenting stress and behavioural problems of children on the autism spectrum is reflected on decreased parenting efficacy (Rezendes & Scarpa, 2011).  However, there are only certain features of this windmill, such as the rotation of the blades or sails, that are visible.  The process is like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel.  There are several unknown factors which determine the effective functioning of the windmill when the direction of the wind is unfavourable for the rotation.  As the images unwind this presentation will explore the unknown factors which determine the effective functioning of the caregivers of children on the autism spectrum and the role of dance movement psychotherapy in increasing the efficiency of the windmill, based on the results of a mixed-methods experimental study with a crossover research design that was conducted as part of a doctoral study.



Supritha Aithal is a graduate teaching assistant and a PhD student at Edge Hill University, UK. Passion towards dance and working experience as a speech & language therapist made her step into the field of dance movement psychotherapy. Her current research is exploring the contribution of dance movement psychotherapy towards the wellbeing of children on the autism spectrum and their caregivers from artistic and neuroscientific perspectives. She is also a Bharatanatyam performer (one of the Indian classical dance forms).

Presenter Photo

Recent Publications

Aithal.S., Gnanavel.K., Karkou.V., Pushpavathi.M. (2019). Backing the backbones – A feasibility study on the effectiveness of dance movement psychotherapy on parenting stress in caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Arts in Psychotherapy, 64, 69-76.

Karkou.V., Aithal.S., Zubala. A., Meekums., B (2019). Effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Adults with Depression: A systematic review with Meta-Analyses. Frontiers in Psychology , 10: 936.

Aithal, S., Karkou, V., Moula, Z, Karaminis, T, Makris, S (2018). A systematic review on the contribution of dance movement psychotherapy towards the wellbeing of children on the autism spectrum.  PROSPERO 2018 CRD42018087912. Available from:

Moula, Z., Aithal, S., Karkou, V, Dudley-Swarbrick, I., Larkin, D (2018). A systematic review of child-focused outcomes of arts therapies delivered in primary mainstream schools. PROSPERO 2018 CRD42018090539. Availablefrom:

Indira, C.P., Lakshmi, M.S., & Aithal, S. (2016). Auditory Temporal Processing Skills in Dancers and Non-Dancers. Journal of All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (JAIISH), Vol.35, pp.37-43.


Professor Vicky Karkou is a qualified researcher, educator, teacher and creative psychotherapist (dance movement psychotherapist), having worked with vulnerable children and adults in schools, voluntary organisations and the NHS. She moved to Edge Hill University in 2013, leading the arts for wellbeing research theme which she explores through a range of qualitative, quantitative and arts-based methodologies.  In 2014 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Medicine at Riga Stradins University in recognition of her contribution to the development of arts therapies training in Latvia. She is well published in national and international journals, and has written and edited books, while also acting as the co-editor for the international journal Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, published by Taylor and Francis.  She travels extensively, while continues supervising masters and PhD studies. She has recently supported the development of a new MSc in Contemporary Creative Approaches to Psychotherapy and Counselling, which will receive its first cohort in 2019.

Dr. Stergios Makris is a chartered psychologist currently working as senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Edge Hill University. His research interests include: visual perception, attention and action, body and action representation, brain stimulation (TMS, rTMS, tDCS), the automatic activation of the motor system by viewing graspable objects (affordances), the neural basis of action prediction and anticipation and the neural and cognitive correlates of elite sport performance. He is well published in national and international journals and has collaborated with several leading neuroscience researchers.

Dr. Themis Karaminis is a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University. He has a wide research experience and his research interests include cognitive development, individual variability, autism, specific language impairment, language development, bilingualism, spoken-word recognition, development of visual perception, cross-linguistic/cross-cultural approaches. He uses several methodologies such as behavioural studies, psychophysics, computational modelling (neural network modelling, Bayesian computational modelling, behavioural modelling), eye-tracking, computational/corpus linguistics.

Dr. Joanne Powell works as a senior lecturer at the Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University. Her research work is based on MRI and fMRI data analysis, theory of mind and strategic thinking in game theory, assessing theory of mind competence in clinical and non-clinical populations, laterality and handedness and their association with cognitive and social processing.