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We reviewed the evidence about the effect of music therapy for autistic people. We compared results from people receiving music therapy (or music therapy added to standard care) with results from people receiving a similar therapy without music (‘placebo’ therapy), standard care or no therapy at all. It’s important to note that music therapy is not the same as musical instruction.

Shannon was amazing at engaging our shy son – and building on their relationship each session! Her commitment to knowing him improved his confidence to speak and practice more. This type of music can be helpful for kids with ASD who need help regulating their emotions. However, the music that will work for one child might not work for another. ET Music Therapy is committed to an equal opportunity environment that celebrates and promotes diversity at every level. We deliver quality ABA therapy services, so children diagnosed with Autism can make great strides.

music therapy for autism

The multidisciplinary approach to autism treatment ensures that music therapy interventions are well-coordinated and complementary to other treatments. With ongoing support and evaluation, individuals with autism can experience the long-term benefits of music therapy and lead fulfilling lives. The choice of the primary outcomes in the reviewed studies should be discussed. In the study conducted by Bieleninik, Geretsegger (38), the primary outcome was the social affect score of the ADOS at 5 months (i.e., encompassing problematic reciprocal social interactions and communication). However, the ADOS is a diagnostic tool that was not specifically designed to assess variations in clinical severity over time.

Approaches to music therapy

Furthermore, they were finally able to recognize and appreciate their unique qualities, like focused interest, repetitive use of objects, insistence on routine, and unusual sensory interests. Here Music therapist Ryan Judd of rhythm tree music therapy displays excerpts from some of his music therapy sessions with children with Autism. Sensory overload is an issue that is common to autistic individuals, music provides relief to them. The rhythmic component of music is very organizing for the sensory systems of children on the spectrum. This therapy may also help children on the spectrum with sensory aversions to cope with sound sensitivities or individual differences in auditory processing.

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Read more about piano lessons for autistic child here. My assigned therapist created a safe place for me to be vulnerable and made all the sessions fun and helpful. Music therapy is a complementary treatment option that can work in conjunction with more traditional therapies to treat autistic individuals. Music is thought to 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 with repetitive training, the brain pathways needed to speak can be reinforced and improved.

However, the results of another study indicated (23) that both music and speech training are effective for language for ASD children, and the differences between music and language training were not statistically significant. Collaborative music-making experiences encourage social interaction among children with autism. Group sessions create opportunities for shared experiences and joint attention. As children synchronize their actions to the rhythm of music, they naturally develop their social skills.

Karin found the MT relationship to be an important predictor of the development of social skills (30). Regarding the effect on the social reactions in children with ASD, the MT group showed a significant difference from the no MT group. Music is known to regulate arousal and attention in the brain and can engage different areas in the brains of individuals with neurological conditions (31).

Music therapy uses different types of music-related activities to help people with autism and special needs. With music therapy, autism traits such as anxiety, communication issues, impaired cognitive functioning, and behavioral issues can be improved. Therapy usually consists of singing, songwriting, listening to and playing instruments, and even composition. Through it, musical therapists can build skills, lower anxiety, and may even develop new communication skills in autistic individuals.

Social communication difficulties are a key feature of ASD and must be present to receive a behavioral diagnosis. Speech is one aspect of social communication that encompasses a wide range of abilities. Children with ASD are more likely to show developmental impairments in speech and communication (40).

MT is a systematic intervention process in which the therapist helps the client to promote health, using musical experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change (9). In terms of interventions, MT has been performed with child-centered or therapist-led approaches, using songs, improvisation, music listening, or combinations thereof (10). Some research has found that MT is an effective method with profound and consistent effects on improving the social skills of children with ASD (11). Social interaction and social communication are among the central areas of difficulty for autistic people. Music therapy uses music experiences and the relationships that develop through them to enable communication and expression, thus attempting to address some of the core problems of autistic people. Music therapy has been applied in autism since the early 1950s, but its availability to autistic individuals varies across countries and settings. The application of music therapy requires specialised academic and clinical training which enables therapists to tailor the intervention to the specific needs of the individual.

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