Physiotherapists’ experiences of the meaning of movement quality in autism: a descriptive phenomenological study
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Introduction: Movement quality, represented in unrestricted movements, flow and pleasure, is often lacking in people with autism. One aspect is the non-verbal expression of the present emotional and psychological state of an individual. Purpose: To describe the meaning of movement quality in autism, as experienced by specialized physiotherapists. Method: Ten physiotherapists were interviewed. The data were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using Giorgi᾽s descriptive phenomenological method. Findings: The general structure of movement quality in people with autism included eight key constituents: 1) reduced postural control; 2) deviant muscle tone and tension; 3) deviant sensory processing; 4) a lack of conscious awareness; 5) difficulties with body boundaries; 6) coordinating movements (including breathing); 7) lack of anticipatory preparations of movements; and 8) need of cognitive thoughts to control movements. Conclusions: This study provide an understanding of how movement quality in people with autism is expressed. Their lived bodies constantly need to protect themselves from sensory impressions from within or the surroundings, causing emotional distress and obscuring the meaning of their movements. Their bodily expression becomes restrained, fragmented, and hesitant. Understanding movement patterns and emotional reactions following their struggle with movements may facilitate constructive interaction and communication, which give important implications when designing physiotherapy interventions.