Music – The Breakthrough Autism Therapy

drumWhen we care for a child with Autism, it can seem as if there a million different pieces of advice which we should be following, to support our kids as well as possible. Friends, professionals, teachers and healthcare experts all have different views on the best way to provide help for our kids, and it can be difficult to know what the best course of action may be to give our children the right support to thrive.

However, every now and then a piece of research comes along in to the treatment of Autism which is undeniably positive, for its common sense, proven effects and simplicity. One of the latest pieces of advice for parents, teachers and carers of children with Autism is the power of music in assisting cognitive development and emotional wellbeing. Use of music therapy has already shown great results for improving temperament in children with Autism, supporting them to develop stronger learning skills and knowledge acquisition. More importantly, it is a fun and interactive way of providing great stimulation for our children.

When you consider the huge impact music has upon our everyday lives overall, its unsurprising that it has a positive effect upon children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Music is such a huge influence upon all of us – we listen to it every single day, through television programs or radio shows. We sing along in the car on journeys to pass the time, and the power of popular music is manifest in the latest wave of reality TV shows which encourage people to call in and vote for the songs we appreciate the most.

Music therapy takes this very integrated quality and uses it to advantage. Therapy can be carried out in conjunction with other activities such as social development, and provides a gentle and passive way for parents to communicate with their children in a natural and engaging way. The majority of games developed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be played along to music, encouraging eye contact and supporting children to take part in the therapy without feeling as if they have been coerced or pushed in to participating.

Our brains react in a unique way when we hear music being played. The speech and language functions we all display are assisted greatly through music, as the patterns of rhythm and cadence are very similar to those used in speech. This means that linguistic development can be enhanced through musical play and therapy almost as an aside, bringing a wealth of advantages when children with Autism engage in this kind of play. Using musical instruments promotes social skills, as all percussive items sound better when played in a group rather than alone, and closeness enhances the sound produced.

Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may find it difficult to communicate effectively, and music provides a non-threatening and safe platform for self-expression which takes away the shyness associated with vocalizing individually. No one needs to have a particular talent for singing or rhythm to have great fun with musical instruments, feeling part of a group who are all working together to achieve a single aim – to make a tune. Many Autistic children have a flair for music, however, and this can provide a source of encouragement and pride for kids who have aptitude, supporting the development of memory and providing a platform for communicating emotions.

Despite the huge differences between children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the unique talents and skills of each, it seems that musical therapy can provide a bridge to bring everyone together, in a non-threatening, safe and enjoyable way. There are groups springing up across the US and beyond providing great opportunities for making music, and this could be just the activity you and your child are looking for to support them in the best possible way to find their voice.

About Jennifer Syrkiewicz

Jen is a published author (two novels one volume of poetry), studied English in the UK at Sussex, East Anglia and then York university. She earned a diploma in journalism, NLP practitioner status, Prince2 qualifications. She’s also the mother of a very cute little girl.

One thought on “Music – The Breakthrough Autism Therapy

  1. Dear Jennifer,

    Thank you for your this article. I’ve seen the positive effect of music upon my father, who lived with dementia during his final four years. It came as a surprise to me, as I hadn’t previously noticed evidence of my father’s appreciation for music…although we knew my mother thoroughly enjoyed music. For two years my brother and sister cared for my father at his home; his last two years he lived in a nearby nursing home, with a wonderful staff. While visiting him during a “music appreciation” activity – one of the staff playing popular songs on the piano from 1930’s-40’s…I watched as my father joined in…naming tunes in just a few notes, then singing all the lyrics in key. What was most noticeable was his emotional reaction to the music; he had tears in his eyes as he sang.
    I learned my father, despite his more advanced dementia, was still able to connect emotionally with the music he’d remembered..he was able to enjoy and feel despite the other side of his brain no longer functioning properly.
    Your article on music’s impact on children with Autism reminded me of its impact on my father. Thank you for sharing this knowledge…hopefully it will be read by many parents of children with Autism and they’ll try including music as you’ve described.
    I see you’ve also written about the positive impact of pets with children with Autism. Again, I’ve experienced this wonderful effect of affectionate dogs with individuals with Alzheimer’s. As with music, it seems to be a natural, common sense approach…in this case, the nurturing influence of unconditional affection. Every few months we visit a senior citizens home with Charlie, our love-able golden retriever. With Charlie on my lap as I squat alongside the residents – usually in their wheelchairs or beds – I’m able to observe the beautiful exchanges. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for the individual to take notice of Charlie and feel comfortable petting him, but more often the individual is very happy to see and visit with Charlie. One floor of the home is exclusively for individuals with Alzheimer’s. More often than not, once they’ve connected with Charlie, these individuals share stories of their childhoods with their own pets…very succinct recollections, and sometimes emotional. It’s quite amazing, and I understand it’s only for those brief moments, but it’s a loving reminder these individuals still carry their feelings of compassion and understanding. I’m hopeful many children and adults with Autism, have the opportunity to enjoy the nurturing provided through loving pets, as you’ve described.
    Thank you and warm regards,

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