Autism can usually be noticed within the first three years of our lives and is recognized as a highly complex disability that affects development of our social, verbal and cognitive abilities. This disorder can affect the way that we communicate with other people, and although there are similarities between different cases of autism, it’s difficult to narrow down a specific sign of cause or symptom.
Approximately one in sixty-eight of Americans will have a form of autism, and it is not something that we can outgrow, although being diagnosed early means that there is a better chance for treatment.
How Music Can Make a Difference
One of the reasons that music has quickly become a tool used in autism therapy is that it can stimulate both hemispheres of our brain, rather than just one. This means that a therapist can use a song or instrument to support cognitive activity so that we can build self-awareness and improve relationships with others. Music encourages communicative behavior and can encourage interaction with others, which is something that autistic children have great difficulty with. If we look closely at the way that a band works, it is obvious that the instruments must all interact with one another, but the player only needs to interact with the instrument at first. For children dealing with autism, interacting with others can be difficult, but through introducing an instrument to their therapy, they may bond first with the object and then open up to others interacting with their instruments as well.
Listening and Singing Support
Our interpretation of music, both in lyrics and in sound can greatly assist in teaching us to communicate. For children with autism, this could mean learning a new word from a song, or better understanding how to act in a social situation based on the messages that a song is expressing. We know that autism can create barriers for children in social settings, but small groups of children listening to music together may feel confident and comfortable enough to comment or sing along with others. Dancing exercises can also help to stimulate our sensory systems, and allow us to enhance fine motor skills.
Early Intervention Studies
Studies of early intervention have shown that if we learn together with our autistic children through gentle play, fun musical activities, and non-invasive games then we can create a supportive environment where parents and children can bond in a healthy way. The reason that we use music therapy is to help our autistic children learn to relate to us and to others; other family members may be invited to participate after children become accustomed to one on one sessions. Aside from the sensory of dance, verbal advancement of lyrics and the social dynamic of learning an instrument, rhythm can help to motivate impulsive play time that involves our entire brains and body as one.
What To Expect in Music Therapy
Music therapy is beneficial to us all, not just our children, and the sessions usually involve crucial communication building exercise as well as relaxing playtime and motivation. Most therapists will give us the chance to develop these new skills slowly by introducing one thing at a time whether it be singing, dancing, listening, or playing our own sounds on an instrument, but each class or program should offer patience, and a safe learning environment.