Individuals of all ages and all abilities can benefit from music therapy. Previously, music therapy has been used to support emotional, cognitive and social development in many populations. Music therapy may help to promote wellness by managing stress, enhancing memory, and improving communication.
A 2004 study from the Journal of Music Therapy found that music in interventions used with children with autism spectrum disorders can improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts, reduce anxiety, and improve body awareness and coordination and etc.
Many studies have found that children with autism spectrum disorders respond positively to music, which makes music a potential therapeutic tool.
In a book of Kim, Wigram, & Gold (2009), autors found that children with autism showed more emotional expression and social engagement during music therapy sessions and responded to the therapist’s requests more frequently during music therapy than without music.
Music therapy typically involves the following stages:
- Assessment: the therapist assesses a child to find out the child’s needs.
- Goal-setting: an individualised program is developed based on the child’s needs.
- Activities: sessions consist of activities designed to meet the child’s individual needs. These could include songwriting, singing, playing instruments etc.
- Evaluation: the program is regularly evaluated to make sure it’s working well.
Music therapy sessions can be one on one or in a group. The duration of the therapy depends on children’s needs – approximately 20-50 minutes.
Music therapy is a great opportunity for children with autism spectrum disorders to communicate. It gives them the opportunity to express their emotions by using different musical activities, such as singing, playing, and dancing instead of words.
Therapists can also use musical activities to teach new skills. This happens by pairing new skills with their own musical cues. Once children have learned the skills, they no longer need the cues. The cues are gradually phased out until the skills happen by themselves.
Kim, J., Wigram, T., & Gold, C. (2009). Emotional, motivational and interpersonal responsiveness of children with autism in improvisational music therapy. Autism, 13(4), 389-409. PMID: 19535468