Fulbright Student Scholar Elizabeth (Liesbet) Manders is spending a year in Germany conducting autism research at the prestigious University of Heidelberg. Liesbet, who is pursuing a PhD in Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel, is investigating if participants in dance/movement therapy can learn to coordinate their body movement with a partner and if this will improve their social interactions. Here’s what she’s been up to:
“I started my year in Germany with 6 weeks of language classes in Marburg with 28 Fulbright awardees. It was both fun and hard work. It did wonders for my German and was a delightful and supportive introduction to life in Germany.
I then moved to Heidelberg to work on my dissertation and learn from research in a prestigious international training network. The interdisciplinary “Towards an Embodied Science of InterSubjectivity” (TESIS) network and the local research group are proving to be an amazing asset to my work. In these groups I get to discuss my work with others who are studying related concepts from a variety of fields. I am using discussions with some of the philosophers to strengthen the theoretical foundations for my study. Others have given me feedback and further resources from the perspective of their field. I attended a neuroscience workshop from the network in Italy and have been invited to teach a weekend class in Prague in the spring. I will maintain and develop these interdisciplinary connections so that we can hopefully continue to support each other’s research for many years to come.
This fall, I worked on a variety of preparations for my dissertation research. I watched the video materials available from the existing “parent” study in Heidelberg and attended therapy groups of the parent study, giving me a better understanding of the context of the video segments. I learned video analysis software and adjusted my study design to match the available resources and video. I worked on preparing the video for analysis and found raters for my study. These raters will watch the video segments, rate these on movement and interaction scales, and write descriptions of the qualities of the movement and interaction. I am excited and nervous as I move on to the next stage in the process: I train the raters next week. When the raters finish in February, I will move into data analysis. I am curious to see what I will discover about nonverbal movement qualities in interactions of participants with autism spectrum disorders.”