Music therapy has been used to support emotional, cognitive and social development in many populations. Music in interventions used with children and teens with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can improve social behaviours, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures and vocabulary) reduce anxiety and improve body awareness and coordination.
Music encourages social interactions
A child with autism shows more emotional expression and social engagement during music therapy sessions, than in play sessions without music. These children also responded to the therapist’s requests more frequently during music than in play sessions without music. A therapist can use music with children to increase their social interaction and improve social skills. Passing and sharing instruments, music and movement games, gathering around a central instrument, learn to listen and sing greeting song, these are just a few of the ways music therapy sessions can increase interaction.
Music can improve behavior
Music therapy sessions seemed to improve overall behaviour, with the most improvement seen in inattentive behaviours (restlessness, aggression and noisiness).
Music can improve communication
Up to thirty percent of children with autism are non verbal and many low functioning children have difficulty in following verbal commands, and have difficult times with social awareness like body language. In this case music therapy 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. By pairing music with actions and repetitive training, the brain pathways needed to speak can be reinforced and improved.
Music can reduce anxiety
Children with autism are more sensitive to anxiety, than normal kids because they are unable to filter out provoking stimuli. Classical music or music with steady rhythm is thought to be the best for alleviating anxiety in children with autism due to the predictability of the beat.