What is music therapy for autistic individuals?
Music therapy for autism is fast emerging as one of the most popular alternative forms of treatment for this neurological disorder. It is a form of therapy in which a professional with an approved music therapy qualification uses music to help individuals with cognitive and emotional problems to improve their ability to function.
By providing developmentally-appropriate music experiences, this therapy can bring changes in behavior and develop various life skills in individuals on the autism spectrum. Here’s a look at how effective music therapy is for autistic individuals.
Benefits of music therapy for autistic individuals
Autistic people show a great deal of interest in music and this is what makes it an excellent therapeutic tool for those on the spectrum. Its malleability and universal nature also makes it easy for a music therapist to reach the level of the autistic child and then help them grow from there.
The non-threatening, secure, and familiar setting of music therapy for autistic individuals helps them relax, which makes them more open to trying and learning new tasks. It also helps develop communications, self-expression, and relationships by bringing autistic children in contact with other people in a less stressful environment.
Music therapy places an emphasis on the strengths of the individual and on using these strengths in addressing the individual’s specific areas of needs.
Music therapy for autistic individuals is a great way help keep their attention focused. It is a powerful tool that can be used as a positive reinforcement for getting desired responses. The music therapist is able to use music in reducing negative and self-stimulatory responses. It also encourages the child with autism to participate in various activities in a socially acceptable way.
For children with no language skills or limited language, music therapy for autistic individuals can help them express their wants and needs non-verbally. Studies have, found that even brief music therapy interventions help in improving the verbal and gestural communicative skills of autistic individuals. In fact, it also often helps in developing language and communication.
Music therapy also helps autistic individuals to identify and express their emotions appropriately. Also, music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain. This means that music stimulates cognitive functioning and can also be used to address speech and language issues.
Children with autism have sensory-motor issues that music therapy can successfully address by providing auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation. The musical rhythm helps in organizing the sensory systems of these individuals and, thus, helps in enhancing perceptual, motor, and auditory skills.
Benefits of music therapy for autistic individuals for the family
Since the individual’s social, cognitive, and communication skills tend to improve through music therapy, their families can expect an improvement in their quality of life. With an improvement in the individual’s behavior, there is less stress on other family members.
Music-related leisure options can now be shared between the autistic individual and other family members. This, in turn, improves relationships and there is greater family cohesiveness. The skills learnt during music therapy sessions can also be easily generalized to the home environment.
Finding a qualified music therapist for autistic individuals
With the right therapist, music therapy for autism can indeed provide a wonderful treatment approach for teaching necessary life skills and improving relationships and communication. While looking for a music therapist for your autistic child, ensure that he or she has a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from a college and university program approved by the American Music Therapy Association, has at least 1200 hours of clinical training, and has passed a national examination to obtain a credential for professional practice. With the right therapist, music therapy for autistic individuals can indeed help reap benefits for your child that may not be possible with other conventional approaches.
American Music Therapy Association: Music therapy and individuals with diagnoses on the autism spectrum
Research Autism: Music Therapy
Cochrane Reviews: Music therapy for autistic spectrum disorder
Picture Credit – image released into public domain by Ratigan