Autism Awareness Month – How Music Therapy Can Help

ribbon-largeDo you know someone who is on the Autism Spectrum? Most of us do! Did you know that Music Therapy is a highly effective way of working with children, teens & adults with Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication, social interaction and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities (DSM-5). The National Autism Center has identified Music Therapy as an emerging intervention.

Music is a very basic human response, spanning all degrees of ability and disability. Music Therapists meet clients where they are at and help them to grow from there. The structure and sensory input inherent in music promotes relaxation, learning, and self-expression; addresses multiple developmental issues simultaneously; provides success-oriented opportunities; and, of course, music is motivating and enjoyable!

Research and statistics from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) report that many individuals with ASD respond positively to music. People with ASD frequently show a heightened interest and response to music, making it an outstanding therapeutic tool for working with them.

Through peer-reviewed journals inside the profession (such as the Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives) as well as many detailed articles in journals outside the profession, AMTA has promoted much research exploring the benefits of music therapy with individuals with diagnoses on the autism spectrum. AMTA’s clinical studies focused primarily on the use of music to address Communication Cognition Behaviors, Social Skills, and Interaction Emotional Regulation. (AMTA, 2008)

The following examples are only some of the clinically proven outcomes of AMTA’s research:

  • Music captures and helps maintain attention. It is highly motivating and may be used as a natural reinforcing agent for desired responses. It provides a bridge in a non-threatening setting.
  • Music therapy can stimulate individuals to reduce negative responses and increase participation in more appropriate and socially acceptable ways.
  • Music therapy can help those without verbal language skills to communicate, participate, and express themselves nonverbally but still positively. Very often music therapy also assists in the development of verbal communication, speech, and language skills.

  • Music therapy helps individuals with ASD identify and appropriately express their emotions.

  • Music Therapy provides concrete, multi-sensory stimulation. The rhythmic component of music is very organizing for the sensory systems of individuals diagnosed with autism.
  • Musical elements and structures provide a sense of security and familiarity in a clinical Music Therapy setting.
  • Many people with ASD have innate musical talents. Therefore, clinical Music Therapy provides an opportunity for successful experiences.

Do you want to learn more about how Music Therapy could help your loved one or student who is on the Autism Spectrum? Contact me for a consultation!

Kim McMillin

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Board Certified Music Therapist
I am passionate about helping others to find the goodness within them and to heal the barriers that prevent them from embracing the Light of Goodness inside. Each of us comes into this world as a magnificent Sun. What often trips us up is that we learn to identify with the clouds -- ugly things...

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