Music Therapy for Autism

Music Therapy for Autism

autistic child playing piano

One of the best ways to help your child with managing and controlling their autistic symptoms is through music therapy.

This article will go over everything you need to know about music therapy for autistic children. 

Additionally, we will list some of the best music therapy specialists for boys and girls with autism.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) go hand in hand. That is to say that music therapy assists autistic children with attaining their academic, communicative, emotional, sensory, and social goals.

Boys and girls who are diagnosed with ASD are typically sensitive to music and sounds. This makes the musical therapeutic approach very effective, especially because it’s combined with commonly-used and scientifically-proven autism therapy methods (such as positive reinforcement and visual scheduling).

When you take your autistic son or daughter to a session, they will learn one or more of the following musical lessons based on treatment-oriented and therapeutic techniques:

  • Dancing
  • Improvisation
  • Listening to music
  • Music activities that computer-based
  • Playing instruments
  • Singing
  • Writing and composing songs

Music therapy gives autistic children a sense of consistency, familiarity, organization, predictability, and structure. This is important since kids with ASD tend to struggle in these areas.

Is music therapy effective for children with autism?

Recent studies looked at how music therapy affects the brain in autism. The results were positive when it comes to behavior and communication.

To illustrate, here is what music therapy does to the brains of children with ASD:

  • The connection between the parts of the brain that are responsible for auditory/hearing functions and motor skills increased.
  • The connection between the parts that are responsible for auditory/hearing and visual functions decreased.

Because of this, the behavior of autistic kids who undergo music therapy sessions improves. They also learn more from response intervention treatments.

In the same vein, music therapy enhances the social skills of children with ASD due to the decreased link between their visual and hearing brain parts. To clarify, this minimizes their sensitivities to both lights and noises, and it allows them to focus on social situations without getting bothered by brightness or loud sounds.

When you take your son or daughter to a music therapy session, you may want to speak to the therapist about your child’s unique skills and needs so that they create a custom therapy plan for them.

What will a music therapy session look like?

Music therapy services are provided by a Board-Certified Music Therapist. They will initially evaluate your kid’s circumstances and abilities. Next, the provider determine which of the two session structure suits your son or daughter best:

  • Child-Led Sessions: The child gets to discover their own musical interests (such as instruments that they like) and develop their skills without having to follow a strict timeline or structure. The therapist also tailors the lessons based on your child’s interests.
  • Structured Sessions: These are suitable for kids with ASD that respond better to predictability, consistency, and organization. Structured lessons have timelines and weekly schedules.

Equally as important are the aids and techniques that therapists deploy during these sessions, including:

  • Sensory Support: They can either reduce or increase sensory stimulus (depending on what your child needs).
  • Visual Support: Visual schedules, visually-supported language tasks, and a picture exchange communication schedule (PECS) are beneficial for autistic children that have a strong visual sense.
  • Video Modeling: Video modeling sequences that guide musical lessons can improve an autistic kid’s communication, language-learning, social, and motor skills.

Simply put, these approaches will make music therapy medically-valuable and, at the same time, fun for your autistic son or daughter.

Encouraging Your Autistic Child Through Music Therapy

Music therapy can act as a fun and entertaining venue where children with ASD can direct their stimuli-creating energy towards productive and therapeutic tasks.

You may want to use this to your advantage by pointing out the positive aspects of music therapy and encouraging your kid to participate in lessons. 

Here are a few tips on how to do so:

  • Attend the lessons yourself, or at least at the beginning and until your child gets comfortable at the music therapist’s office.
  • Hire a certified at-home music therapy provider. Many autistic kids respond better to these treatments when they’re done from the comfort of their house.
  • Identify songs that make your child feel safe and relaxed, and share them with their therapist.
  • Participate in the lessons by singing and dancing in a funny or goofy way. This will make your son or daughter feel even more entertained and comfortable.
  • Point out how music classes can make repetitive tasks fun and entertaining.
  • Explain to your child how learning to sing, dance, or play an instrument can make it easier for them to build relationships with others based on common interests and hobbies.
  • In the same vein, assist them with making friends at these sessions.
  • Learn about how you can keep implementing therapeutic techniques (such as positive reinforcement) at home.

Above all, you want to make sure that you only work with a certified and accredited music therapy practitioner who uses scientifically-proven methods that provide your son or daughter with comfort and convenience while they enhance their skills.

The Best Music Therapy Programs for Autistic Children

The following list includes five of the best and most renowned music therapy programs:

  • ACES: This organization offers a variety of therapeutic services for ASD patients. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and music therapy are among them. Your child can attend the sessions in-person and online, regardless of where you’re located. ACES also has training programs for parents.
  • AST: Autism Spectrum Therapies (AST) have music lessons and other ABA-based therapies that are available in 15 states. Additionally, their more than 1,000 practitioners can come to your home or treat your autistic son or daughter via telehealth.
  • The House of Music Therapy: The House of Music Therapy serves communities in southern Florida, but patients across the United States can enroll in their telehealth sessions. Initially, you can ask for a free 1-hour assessment and decide if this provider is a good fit for your and your kid.
  • Hug Music: Hug Music, located in Forest Hill, New York, provides private sessions and group courses that may be conducted at their facility or at your home. You can request their 5-week evaluation package to get an assessment and enroll your child in 4 courses to determine if Hug Music is the right choice.
  • Tomatis: This company has professionals in more than 75 countries, and there are many of them in the United States. Tomatis uses unique therapeutic methods to develop autistic children’s skills and capabilities.

When you consider your options, you should keep your child’s individual goals and needs in mind so that they fully benefit from the effectiveness of music therapy.

Next, try to learn more about what a typical lesson would look like with the provider that you choose. A fun, engaging, and comfortable therapeutic experience will give your son or daughter plenty of encouragement, especially when they make new friends and begin to take in the therapeutic advantages of music therapy.

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