Music Therapy and Autism

by Sam Malone


Music is one of the most ancient forms of communication known to man. It is a fact that the brain responds differently to music than it does to speech. At the end of 20 weeks of conception, the auditory canal is fully functioning, and it is known that children who are a year old remember and recall music that they heard when in their mother's womb.

Music therapy is not necessarily a new science. David played the harp for King Saul to soothe his soul in the Bible. The Greeks were known to use music in the treatment of mental patients. Many tribal medicine men employ music while healing patients.

Modern music therapy can be said to have originated during and after the World Wars, when musicians traveled around hospitals playing for the inmates to cure emotional and physical trauma.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders, characterized by the following:

  • Impaired social and verbal communication
  • Severely limited interests
  • Repetitive behavior

Most people diagnosed with ASD are children who are around 3 years old, and music therapy for children with autism has shown to be very effective.

Music therapy is particularly useful in treating mood disorders or behavioral problems. Although autism cannot be classified as such, music therapy for autistic children has shown to improve both social and behavioral skills.

Listening to Mozart is believed to get relief from depression, known as the Mozart Effect. Autism is also among the disorders that have shown positive results from listening to Mozart.

Music therapy for autistic children usually involves a combination of:

  • Singing
  • Listening to music such as beats, melodies and even rhythmic patterns
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Dancing to music

Usually music therapy for autistic children is carried out in a group consisting of autistic children, their care givers and therapists. A music therapist usually coordinates the session, providing feedback to both the caregivers and the child.

Benefits of Music Therapy for Autistic Children

Music is one of the best forms of therapies used to treat social and verbal problems in autistic children. Listed below are some of the benefits of music therapy for children with autism.

  • Increases tolerance
  • Increases reciprocal interaction
  • Motivates learning
  • Enhances communication skills
  • Identifies limitations in autistic children
  • Identifies potential in autistic children
  • Enhanced language skills
  • Improved emotional responses
  • Improved attention span
  • Better control over behavior
  • Decreases auditory sensitivities

Although Autism is considered a problem that cannot be treated, it is becoming increasingly obvious that music may be the key to curing this problem in future.

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16919132
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22221670
  3. http://www.hhs.gov/autism/

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