Music Therapy and Its Effect on Children With Autism

autumn tree

According to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control, one in every 150 children in United States is diagnosed with autism, equating to a new diagnosis every 20 minutes.  And these statistics are increasing in distressing numbers. Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that typically presents during the first three years of life, and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. A child with symptoms can have any number of behaviors on the “spectrum disorder” associated with autism. Typical symptoms include impaired communication and social interaction, repetitive behavior, and limited interest.

Many people believe that music can heal the soul, but can it help to treat autism?

Neuroscientists have conducted research that has proven that music calms the mind and eases stress. It has been observed that a specific tone, note, or pitch has a powerful effect on the body, and this can help autistic children to improve emotional, psychological, and even physiological health. To address the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive needs of these youngsters, intervention methods, using music and movement therapy have been designed to promote wellness, manage stress, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation.Music that engages autistic children in dancing and singing also helps them to learn communication and social skills. According to research by pediatric neurologists, autistic children do not engage in normal social activities, and may be intimidated by human contact, so music sessions offer an outlet for them to express themselves.

Eventually, music therapy can bring them into the realm of song, and may promote an interest in dancing, as well. Both singing and dancing create an emotional outlet as well as a sense of fulfillment, which may have been lacking prior to receiving music therapy because of limited social activity.Autistic children are highly responsive to music, and some children may even begin to communicate through singing. Eventually, they may also begin to show interest in playing a musical instrument, which further helps in acquiring a specific skill.

Music therapy works differently for each child, depending on the personality of the child. Generally, it is beneficial because it makes these children take a more active role in becoming responsive to their environment. The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy is in the areas of social-emotional responsiveness and communication, reduced anxiety, and increased interaction with peers. Despite difficulties in the areas of socialization and communication, evidence (see the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2012, Molnar-Szakas, I., Heaton, P.) suggests that many children with autism disorder show a strong and early preference for music and are able to understand simple and complex musical emotions.

For additional information on the benefits of music and music therapy for autistic children, please visit the sites below from the Huffington Post, the Autism Science Foundation, and Musictherapy.org.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-fitzpatrick/music-and-creativity_b_2253464.html

http://autismsciencefoundation.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/music-therapy-may-help-children-with-autism/

http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Autism_2012.pdf


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