Updated on May 24th, 2019
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 160 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The disorder which starts in childhood usually continues in the person’s teenage and adult years. Sadly, individuals with ASD are frequently subject to discrimination, stigma and human rights violations.
Fortunately, music therapy provides hope for an alternative therapy which may help modify the underlying neuro-developmental abnormalities associated with autism. This is minus the side effects associated with conventional medicine.
Autistic Children Have A Unique Musical Talent
In 1950, the National Association for Music Therapy was formed with one of its goals being to create a standardized music therapy treatment protocol. A noteworthy suggestion that came out from the association was to mainstream autistic children with regularly developing children in music classrooms. In fact, studies have found that many autistic children have an unusual talent of precisely reproducing familiar pieces of music or musical sounds.
Benefits Of Music Therapy In Autism Treatment
Why is live music of the likes of MsMusic or other music booking service so popular? One of the reasons is that while it is full of energy, it also helps the audience relax and elevate their mood. When people want to unwind after a long day, what is an easy way to do so? Listen to music! In the treatment of autism, music therapy is associated with the following benefits:
1. Development Of Speech And Communication
A key benefit associated with music therapy for a child with autism is in the realm of communication. Music affords the child a non-threatening path to communication. The use of musical activities such as singing, song writing, and improvising and playing instruments that would strike a chord with the autistic child more effectively encourages communication than interaction attempts through words alone.
2. Addresses Sound Sensitivity
In autistic individuals who have sensory aversions to specific sounds, music therapy can help them deal with individual variations in auditory processing and with sound sensitivities.
3. Learning New Skills
Using certain musical cues, it is possible to teach new skills. For example, if the therapist wanted to teach a particular child about turn-taking, he could write lyrics pertaining to the same for a melody the child is already familiar with.
The child by virtue of being able to concentrate on the sung information better, learns the skill, following which the cues are no longer required.
4. Improves The Comprehension Of Emotions
Music therapy triggers the mirror neuron system – brain cells that are fired when a person performs an action or even observes another person performing that action. The system is also believed to be the neural basis for empathy.
The assumption is that in autistic children, mirror neurons do not work the way they are supposed to. This is why music therapy, in nurturing these neurons, helps the individuals under treatment to understand and respond better to others’ emotions.
Other benefits of music therapy in autism treatment include:
- Increased concentration on tasks
- Better self-care
- Improved body awareness and coordination
- Enhanced social skills
- Less anxiety
The familiarity and security that a music therapy setting provides encourages autistic individuals to try out new activities in a predictable but flexible framework.
What Will A Musical Therapist Do
Based on the assessment of a child and his requirements, the therapist will structure an individualized program.
The program would probably include spontaneous musical improvisation such as tuned instruments, percussion or the therapist’s own voice in response to whatever sounds the child produces.
This is to encourage the child to come up with a musical language or context of sound through the medium of which he would feel comfortable to communicate and to experience more emotions.
In addition, the therapist may use certain songs, musical styles or pieces of the child’s preference to suit his mood or clinical requirements.
When considering musical therapy for your child or any loved one with autism, look for a registered musical therapist with experience in working with individuals with ASD.