The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ADDM autism prevalence report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States in 2014 — nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 — and almost 1 in 54 boys. While no cure exists, autism is treatable. That’s where music therapy can help. Nearly all people feel a deep connection to music that changes their mental and physical states. Music isn’t just something we hear, but something we interact with and feel.
In recent years, music has become a tool for autism therapy because as an art form, it isn’t regulated by one hemisphere of the brain, but rather, neurons scattered all across the brain. Music also encourages communicative behavior that encourages interaction with peers, which is a known challenge for autistic children.
Music therapy research findings demonstrate that children with autism may show equal or superior abilities in pitch processing, labeling of emotions in music, and musical preference when compared to typically developing peers. The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy lies in the areas of social-emotional responsiveness and communication. Preliminary findings also support the potential for music to assist in the learning of daily routines.
Here are ways music helps children with autism connect to the world around them:
- This promotes early speech by helping children to compensate for communication deficits.
- Music Patterns. Music is at its core a structured way to present information. The melody in music gives students with autism a way to organize auditory information like memorizing, sequencing tasks, and retaining academic facts.
- Personal Connection. A shared interest in music helps children with autism connect with family and friends.
- Enhance Creativity. Music provides a motivating and safe way to explore spontaneity.
- Gentle Meditation. The soothing music found in meditations can have a calming effect when children with autism are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. By using music, you can help your child bridge communication gaps, feel comfortable in social settings, and feel more connected to you.
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