Music helps us in relaxation, music helps us to rejuvenate, but can music help benefit the autistic brain? According to experts, music therapy could be a risk-free yet useful technique to interact with people on the autistic spectrum and develop their brain functionalities.
Music can be used as an aid for autism to improve the following areas:
- Social Skills
- Motor Skills
- Self-Reliance and Determination
A meta-study further revealed that it can increase:
- Body Coordination
- Body Awareness
Music Therapy Can Make a Difference
Music therapy can turn out to be much helpful while working with autistic adults as well as children. As per NurseJournal, autism is a highly complex disability that can be noticed in the first three years of life. As this disorder affects social, verbal, and cognitive abilities, it can largely affect the way one communicates with others.
Music can bridge this gap when used effectively. In fact, it can reduce anxiety as well, strengthening the parent-child bond.
Music Can Be Beneficial to Children on Autism Spectrum
Statistics reveal that 1 in every 68 Americans is diagnosed with some form of autism. Although there is no complete cure for this syndrome yet, an early diagnosis can assure a better treatment.
While working with children, one can use several musical activities and tools to enhance their quality of life. Children who deal with autism often find it extremely difficult to interact with people around him or her. But when they are introduced to an instrument, they can first connect with the instrument and then can express themselves by playing it.
Music Therapy Can Serve as the Natural Reinforcer to Individuals Affected by Autism
We know that music is a part of various therapies and is used in conjunction with traditional therapies too. And it has produced fruitful results to cope with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as sound.
- Better Understanding of Words and Actions
Autism can be compared to a social barrier that obligates the affected to convey their thoughts and desires to others. However, a song can help fight this barrier. Especially, if the song is about some activity, then the affected can relate to the song over time that would motivate him/her to actually perform the activity. For children, it can work better if they are given a social setting. For instance, a group of children listening to songs together can augment their communication skills. The message in the lyrics often helps them understand how to act in a social surrounding. Children may feel more confident this way.
Also, when music is combined with dancing, it boosts fine motor skills. It is, in fact, one of the reasons why every child is encouraged to do actions while learning rhymes.
- Better Awareness of their Own Body
A 2004 analysis indicated that music therapy can positively impact several other traits in autistic children and adolescents and not only be limited to influencing their social behavior. It showed that music intervention can intensify their vocabulary comprehension and level of attention to tasks. Such attempts can help them become more aware of their own body and body parts, leading to building self-care skills as well.
- Music as a Calming Agent
Music has been proven to relax your muscles by releasing tension. Children on the autism spectrum can sometimes feel overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations, generating hyperactivity in them. And the cause can be stress. Music therapy can decrease stress levels and provide a rhythmic structure in their breathing.
How Does the Brain Respond to Music Therapy?
Music is known to stimulate both the hemispheres of our brain, provoking a response that is universal and can mark changes in our movements and emotions. Patients with Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain injury can recover to a certain extent with music therapy.
The Nordoff-Robinsons approach further adds that through active, communicative, and expressive music-making every person’s potential can be harnessed. Paul Nordoff, an American composer and pianist, and Clive Robins, a special educator for children, both believed that every individual has this inherent capability of creating music. Their approach can be seen as an aid for autism as well as other infirmities.
How Does a Therapist Run a Music Therapy Session?
Music therapy generally follows 4 stages:
The therapist starts by assessing the child’s ASD symptoms. As it is not a stand-alone treatment, he/she might talk to the patient’s doctor for more background information.
Once the assessment is complete, the therapist will design a custom program suiting the patient’s needs. This is referred to as the goal-setting stage.
Next, the therapist will chalk out the activities, like dancing to the music, singing, songwriting, establishing peer interactions, etc.
The therapist would evaluate the child or the patient regularly to track the developmental progress.
Autistic children and adults generally are well responsive to music. It is a wonderful aid for autism to grow trust and personal connections. However, music therapy is not sufficient to train your child in music, for that you need special music instructors.