Autism Breakthrough – Can Music Therapy Speed Up Learning in Autistic Children?

Autism music therapy has been the topic of great recent interest due to its surprising yet positive effects on autistic children. For autistic toddlers and young children between the ages of 3 to 6, music therapy seems to help connect the dots in terms of emotional and physical behavior and learning.

Abbey Monroe, age 4, is a shining example of what happens when music therapy is introduced to a child with autism.

Abbey’s mother Sarah Monroe, often sings to her and chants short rhythmic phrases to get Abbey to comply and play along while she moves throughout her day from one activity to the next; activities ranging from changing her clothes, to eating a meal, to taking a bath.

Autism Music Therapy at Work in the Classroom

Abbey, who previously lacked verbal skills due to severe autism, is now able to talk and communicate much more effectively after being enrolled in Crenshaw Elementary School where she gets special attention from a highly specialized staff of autism experts and educators. Abbey has been able to overcome many social and behavioral issues thanks to Mrs. Linda LeFante, a veteran autism specialist and strong advocate of music therapy.

“All children with autism respond to music, and Abbey’s no different. I believe you can teach your child basic life skills using music as a tool to help make things easier, both for you and your child,” Mrs. LeFante explains.

“Abbey, like all the other children in my classroom, need to learn the basics for living like changing her clothes, brushing her teeth, and adjusting to different social situations. And music makes the entire learning process much easier and more enjoyable.”

Mrs. LeFante’s confidence in music therapy is based on 14 years of teaching children with autism. Parents of children under Mrs. LeFante’s care attest that her methods are undeniably effective. There are over 60 children with autism enrolled at Crenshaw Elementary where Mrs. LeFante teaches. The children are divided into classrooms of 7 to 8 children with a special education assistant assigned to each child.

Although a huge support staff is on hand, the overwhelming success of the students at Crenshaw Elementary can mostly be attributed to Mrs. LeFante’s music education program which follows the core curriculum. This ensures that every student with autism gets what they need in terms of a complete education.

Music Therapy for Autistic Children – Approved by Parents and Professionals

Judy Morrow, mother of 5 year old Albert Morrow who is also a student at Crenshaw Elementary, recently shared her thoughts on the impact of music therapy, “My son Albert had the toughest time learning due to autism. But now he’s able to recite the alphabet. He also learned to say the names of his favorite animals. He’s even counting which totally caught me off guard. I’m thrilled at how quickly he’s learning. Linda LeFante is an absolute miracle worker.”

To shed further light on the topic, Mrs. LeFante responded by saying, “Music can be the anchor to help your child stay grounded while they learn. I never pressure my students. I never force anything on them. All of the children in my care just naturally gravitate towards music therapy when they witness me and other students enjoying the process. Furthermore, I believe music therapy belongs in the home as much as it does in school. I believe you can teach literally anything using music as a tool.”

The Future of Autism Music Therapy

While there is still much research ahead in the field of cognitive neurology (brain sciences) and the effects of music therapy on children with autism, there is substantial real-life data pouring in from parents and teachers alike in regards to the impact of music therapy in the classroom and at home; positive reports that music unquestionably helps children with autism learn much more effectively, and efficiently, while enjoying both the outcome, and the process.

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Autism

A professional who specializes in autism can suggest different treatment for autistic’s that can have a significant positive effect on their behavior. One such treatment is Music therapy.

Music therapy is a controlled music experience that is used to facilitate positive change in human behavior. Each session of music therapy is carefully planned, carried out, and evaluated to suit the specific needs of each patient. Music therapy can include any of the following musical activities:

o Listening to music and/or musical creation

o Playing musical instruments (any instrument can be used)

o Moving to music

o Singing

As far as autism is concerned, studies have shown that music therapy has a significant, positive influence when used to treat autistic individuals. Participating in music therapy allows autistics the opportunity to experience non-threatening outside stimulation, as they don’t engage in direct human contact.

As was previously mentioned, music therapy is made specific to each individual. This is extremely important, because what may be positively received by one autistic may be negative to another. That being said, let’s take a look at the positive influence music therapy has had on autistic individuals.

Music therapy –

Improved socio-emotional development: In the first steps of a relationship, autistics tend to physically ignore or reject the attempts of social contact made by others. Music therapy helps to stop this social withdrawal by an initial object relation with a musical instrument. Instead of seeing the instrument as threatening, autistic children are usually fascinated by the shape, feel and sound of it. Therefore, the musical instrument provides an initial point of contact between the autistic and the other individual by acting as an intermediary.

Assisted in both verbal and non-verbal communication – When music therapy is used to aid in communication, its goal is to improve the production of vocalization and speech, as well as stimulate the mental process of comprehending, conceptualizing and symbolizing. A music therapist will attempt to establish a communicative relationship between the behavior of a child with autism and a specific sound. An autistic person may have an easier time recognizing or being more open to these sounds than they would to a verbal approach. This musical awareness, and the relationship between the autistics’ actions and the music, has potential to encourage communication.

Another form of music therapy that may help with communication is to play a wind instrument (IE flute). It is thought that by playing such an instrument, you become aware of the functioning of your teeth, jaws, lips and tongue. Thus, playing a wind instrument almost mirrors the functioning required in order to produce speech vocalizations.

Encouraged emotional fulfillment – Most autistics lack the ability to affectively respond to stimuli that would otherwise allow them to enjoy an appropriate emotional charge. Thus, since most autistics respond well to music stimuli, music therapy has been able to provide autistics with an environment that is free of fear, stimuli considered threatening, etc.

During a music therapy session, an autistic individual has the freedom to behave in specific ways that allow them to discover and express themselves when they want and choose. They can make noise, bang instruments, shout and express and experience the pleasure of emotional satisfaction.

Musical therapy has also helped autistic individuals by:

o Teaching social skills

o Improving language comprehension

o Encouraging the desire to communicate

o Making creative-self expression possible

o Reducing non-communicative speech

o Decreasing echolalia (uncontrolled and instant repetition of the words spoken by another)

Keep in mind that although music therapy can have positive effects on autistic individuals, it is vital that an autistic receives such treatment from a trained and experienced musical therapist.

The Healing Powers of Music Therapy As an Autism Symptoms Treatment

There are many different forms of autism symptoms treatment. There are the more traditional therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) and floortime. And then there are a lot of alternative treatments as well.

The thing about all these alternative treatments is that you have to be very careful to research them before you try them, because not all of them are credible. But that said, sometimes you can find really good ones that will help your child if you look just a little outside the box.

How to Use Music Therapy to Help a Child with Autism

One such idea is music therapy. Music therapy can be surprisingly helpful as a treatment for autism symptoms. It has a way of connecting with those who have autism that can often not be achieved any other way. Those with no ability for communication have responded to and seemingly connect with music therapy.

Why is music therapy successful as an autism symptoms treatment?

People with autism often like patterns, and music is full of patterns. Music has rhythm to it. It is something that people with autism can feel. And they use a part of their brain which is entirely different than what is used for verbal communication.

Music is something that children with autism don’t have to think much about or interpret. Music moves you, and allows you to express emotions that you might not have any other way of getting out and in this way it can help as an effective autism symptoms treatment.

How exactly is music therapy implemented for autistic kids?

You may think that music therapy relies solely on learning to play an instrument, but that is not it at all. Music therapy is not instruction in music. Instead, a music therapist will use a lot of different tools, knowledge and creativity to create musical experiences where the autistic person feels comfortable, based on their needs.

Verbal Skills Not Required

One advantage to music therapy as an autism symptoms treatment is that it does not require any verbal ability. A person with autism can use a bell, bang on a piano, or shake some cymbals without needing to talk – and by doing this, they can begin to communicate with others through music. You might say that in some ways, music could be considered an ancient form of communication – perhaps one of our oldest forms.

Why is it that music therapy works so well with autistic people?

  1. Music can capture, and help maintain, attention. It will motivate and engage a person to respond and participate.
  2. Music is, in many ways, a universal language.
  3. Music gives people with autism a way to express their emotions, and to be able to identify their emotions, in a way that they might not otherwise have had the ability to do.
  4. Think of how many non-autistic people get pleasure from music. For many of the same reasons, it can be anxiety reducing for those with autism, too. Repeating the same music many times can create a sense of security and comfort in an office setting, which can make a person with autism feel more at ease and receptive to learning.

Some forms of autism symptoms treatment work better than others, but it is worth trying any that you think have merit and are able to do.