Music As Therapy for Autistic Children by John Schmidt

Many people believe that music can heal the soul, but can it help to cure physical and mental ailments? Studies on patients with cancer, ADD, and depression have shown that music therapy is effective in helping people cope with a situation, both mentally and physically. Some hospitals today use music therapy to help patients manage their illnesses, because it is research-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 a patient restore and improve emotional, psychological, and physiological health.

Expert music therapists are hired by hospitals and organizations such as cancer institutes to help patients deal with prolonged sickness or pain. Generally, a patient will be referred to a music therapist when symptoms of undue stress and tension are observed. Music therapists also work with patients who require special attention, such as those who are suffering from irregularities in motor and communication skills. There are several other ailments and disorders that can be treated with the use of music therapy, and these include physical handicap, sensory impairment, psychiatric disorder, communication disorder, relationship problems, aging, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities.

The different types of music therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and behavioral therapy. The model of therapy that is based on neuroscience is called “neurological music therapy”, or NMT. This therapy involves the study of the effects of music on the brain when music is turned on and off. By understanding the way the brain responds to music, physicians will know how to help a patient.

Music therapy is also applied in the treatment of autism. Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects children, and its effects can be seen as early as infancy. Symptoms may appear at the age of six months, and the disorder is established before the child reaches three years of age. Typical symptoms of autism include impaired communication and social interaction, repetitive behavior, and limited interest. Autism is considered a disorder because it prevents the affected person from being self-dependent and leading a normal life. Most autistic people are unable to take care of themselves, even after they reach adulthood, but there are a number of them who have succeeded in becoming independent after they received proper guidance during their childhood.

Music therapy helps in treating autistic children, but it has to be applied with kids in mind. It should not be too complicated for them to follow. Music that engages autistic children in dancing and singing works very well in helping them communicate and develop social skills. Autistic children respond to music by singing in the same note, and some of them may even start communicating through singing. They may take up an instrument to play, and this will help them gain interest in acquiring a certain skill. Music therapy can help different autistic patients in different ways, but generally, it is beneficial to them because it makes them more responsive to things around them.

The reason behind such great response to music is that autistic children do not engage in normal social activities, and music sessions give them an opportunity to express themselves. Music therapy for an autistic child starts with learning how to play a musical instrument, as he or she may get intimidated by human contact. Slowly, the therapy moves on to include singing and even dancing, if the child shows interest for such activities. This gives the child an emotional outlet as well as a sense of fulfillment, which were lacking in the past because of limited social activity.

Autism is not a disease, but it can be detrimental to the development of a child. Extra care must be given when dealing with an autistic child. Even though the child may respond positively to music, it is important to seek help from an expert in music therapy. A music therapist will know exactly what kind of treatment plan is effective in helping an autistic child. It is also important to note that a disorder such as autism cannot be treated in a day, and it requires time, effort, and a lot of patience.

For more information on autism and music therapy, check out these links:

  • Music Therapy Guide: A guide that helps teachers engage autistic children in music therapy through outdoor activity.

page last edited by John Schmidt


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