Music Therapy for Autism

December 9, 2014

Music is wonderful.  It can lift our moods.  It can keep us company when we are alone.  It can help us understand and cope with tough situations in life.  Everyone can benefit from music regardless of age, need or ability. It is no surprise then, that music therapy has been known to promote wellness by managing stress, enhancing memory, and improving communication in many different populations.  Let’s look at some recent studies done regarding children and teens on the autism spectrum and how music therapy can improve their daily lives.

A 2004 study from the Journal of Music Therapy found that music in interventions used with children and teens with ASD can improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures, and vocabulary), reduce anxiety, and improve body awareness and coordination.

The Autism Science Foundation released studies in 2013 that report that children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) respond well to music. Here are the major points that they found:

  • Music encourages social interactions – Children with autism show more emotional expression and social engagement during music therapy sessions than in play sessions without music. These children also respond to the therapist’s requests more frequently during music therapy than in play sessions without music.
  • Music can improve communication – Up to thirty-percent of children with autism are nonverbal, and many low-functioning children have difficulty following verbal commands, and have difficult time with social awareness like understanding body language. Music can improve the mapping of sounds to actions, by connecting the auditory and motor sections of the brain, which may help improve understanding of verbal commands.
  • Music can improve behavior – In a 2012 study of 41 children with autism over a ten-month period,  found that weekly music therapy sessions seemed to improve overall behavior, with the most improvement seen in inattentive behaviors.

To read the entire study results link to The Autism Science Foundation.  Music is an amazing and fun way to communicate with children and teens on the autism spectrum.  Improved social abilities, communication, and behavior are just a few of the benefits of music therapy.