Music therapy uses music as an element to promote intellectual and emotional development. In autism spectrum disorders (ASD), music helps to motivate, relax, and engage children. Music therapy can help foster communication, positive social behaviors, and emotional growth. Since autistic behaviors and disabilities vary widely between individuals, your child’s music therapist will carefully tailor a program to your child’s specific challenges and goals.
Research shows that children with ASD have enhanced musical abilities including pitch perception, pitch memory and discrimination. Music therapy harnesses these strengths while providing a safe and enjoyable means to work on impairments such as joint attention, communication, social behavior and motor skills. Playing music with others also gives autistic children a sense of togetherness and shared experience that fosters cooperation in synchronized activities. In addition, music therapy encourages self-expression and self-esteem.
Schools may provide music therapy for autistic children. In some states, health insurance may also pay for music therapy sessions. Parents and caregivers can choose to pay for additional music therapy on a private basis.
Researchers agree that in order to provide maximum benefits, autism interventions should begin as early as possible.
What does it involve?
When choosing a music therapist, make sure to find a certified music therapist who has experience working with children with autism spectrum disorders.
The first task of the music therapist is to evaluate your child’s abilities and challenges. The music therapist will observe the child during several activities and talk with parents about problems and goals. Together with the parents or caregivers, the music therapist will set goals and priorities for therapy.
Music therapy for autistic children can take many forms depending on the needs of the child. The therapist may simply encourage the child to pick up and try many different musical instruments. If the child is playing an instrument, the therapist may join in and play too. Music therapy may include singing songs designed to mimic the rhythm and flow of language and conversation, or training on a specific instrument or instruments. Elements of rhythmic movement and dance may also be incorporated in order to foster motor skills.
Music therapy is most effective as part of a multifaceted early intervention program.
The goal of music therapy in autism is to help children develop their intellectual, physical, and emotional abilities and function more effectively in daily life.
A 2004 article reviewed nine studies on the inclusion of music during therapy with autistic children and adolescents. Researchers concluded that music had significantly positive effects.
In 2013, a study of 41 children with autism showed that weekly music therapy sessions improved autistic behaviors, especially inattentive behaviors, over a 10-month period.
If you pay privately for music therapy, it can become expensive.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to music therapy appointments.