As a parent of a child with autism, you know there is no one-size-fits-all solution to helping your child achieve their full potential. Music therapy is a form of therapy that uses music as a tool to help people improve their health and well-being. In the case of children with autism, music therapy can be a powerful tool to help them improve communication, social, emotional, behavioral, motor, and sensory processing skills. During music therapy sessions, therapists first guide children with ASD through repeated musical rhythms and phrases in order to create a structured format for communication (Kim et al., 2006; LaGasse, 2016).
This post provides specific examples of music therapy for children with autism and includes music activities you can use at home. Each music therapist on our team is trained to assess where each child is at, then design music activities to systematically work toward goals.
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For instance, participating in a drum circle encourages cooperative play and improves attention span. Read more about piano lessons for special needs here. Moreover, mastering an instrument can boost self-esteem and confidence, adding another feather to the therapeutic cap of music therapy. Music, when combined with autism’s unique traits, has the power to “magically unlock” abilities buried deep within children on the autism spectrum.
The Power Of Music in Kids with Autism
Finally, 22 full-text papers were reviewed for eligibility, with 8 studies meeting the requirements (11, 17, 21–26). Figure 1 shows the research selection flowchart for discovering eligible papers. The original contributions presented in this study are included in the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author. In August 2021, we searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, eleven other databases and two trials registers. We also ran citation searches, checked reference lists, and contacted study authors to identify additional studies.
One of the most significant benefits of music therapy for children with autism is that it can help them develop their communication skills. For example, a child may be able to sing a song before they can speak the words. Or they may be able to communicate their emotions through music more easily than through words. By engaging in music therapy, children can learn to communicate their needs and wants more effectively. Music therapy is a therapeutic intervention that utilizes music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. It involves a range of activities, like singing, playing musical instruments, or simply listening to music. The use of musical instruments in therapy sessions can bring about significant improvements in motor skills and coordination.
It aids in improving motor skills, social interaction, emotional regulation, along with communication skills. Furthermore, music therapy is often perceived as more enjoyable and engaging, leading to greater participation and progress. Through repetition of lyrics and chorus lines, individuals learn new words, aiding in their verbal communication skills. Singing also provides an opportunity to express emotions, serving as a therapeutic outlet for feelings. For individuals with autism, music therapy can be particularly effective for providing a structured and engaging environment for communication and social interaction. Sessions can be used to improve social skills, communication, and emotional regulation.
A second music-based assessment for children with ASD is the Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND) (44). This assessment is part of the development framework based on the relationship between MT and ASD. In this framework, the ability to perform, and interpret creative music is evaluated. This assessment is based on music-centric treatment, which provides information about how people play a role in music, which helps with non-music interaction and understanding. Music can trigger engagement in social functions, and musical activity is directly related to the fulfillment of basic human needs, such as communication, cooperation and social attachment (5).
States currently requiring licensure include Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia. To find music therapy lessons near you, you can try searching the American Music Therapy Association online therapist directory. The Music-Play Project at Florida State University and the Artism Project have both taken this process one step further. The programs have put autistic people together in ensembles to create their own improvisational music, sometimes in collaboration with professional musicians. A solid support system, regular communication with a healthcare team, medications, and possibly vocational specialists can help provide support when needed.
Early social communication skills are theorized to be important for later more complex social behaviors (12). Social intervention from childhood onward is essential for individuals with autism. The neuropeptide oxytocin has been used as a potential therapy to reduce social impairment in ASD, but this hypothesis remains controversial and inconclusive (13). Promising MT effects for autism have been shown in many domains (10), and MT may be a better option than some other treatments for improving the social skills of children with ASD. It was then found that music can modify the brain and behavior in children with Autism by improving brain connectivity. Previous research shows children with Autism struggle from overconnectivity in the brain.