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reaching children with autism through music

I am not going to spend any time defining what autism is, or how it affects a child…and a family’s life. If you are seeking therapy options, then you are already well aware of what autism is and how there is no “cure”. However, there is help.

If you have a child with autism who seems to respond to music, you might want to consider music therapy. This therapy is gaining a foothold in the world of autism, because it encourages communication and provides sensory experiences. This can lead to significant improvement in language development, as well as self-expression…which is what we want for our children, right?

What is Music Therapy?

This is therapy where music is used to encourage and inspire constructive behavior and responses in an environment that is controlled and monitored. It has grown in popularity and is conducted by a licensed music therapist. The therapist works with the child to focus on various social, psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and language concerns.

Music therapy has also been known to help with other health matters such as ADD, traumatic brain injury, and Tourette’s syndrome. Of course, each person should have a therapy designed specifically for them and their individual needs, which is what the licensed therapist can do.

The reason it is effective for autism is because music is a great source of non-threatening stimulation, and encourages people to express themselves with both gestures and speech, something a child with autism struggles with on a daily basis.

The Benefits of Music Therapy

Now that you know what music therapy is, you probably want to know what the actual benefits are, and how it can be applied in helping your child. There are many, actually.

By playing music that relates to your child’s specific activities, a therapist can help increase language skills. They do this by helping the child to understand the meaning of various words. The sounds they are hearing can also help them with pronunciation and sounds, which will in turn improve overall speech.

It will also help to reduce monotone speech, which is prevalent in autism. Music will help encourage singing which encourages variations in inflection and flow of speech.

Sensory issues are also addressed during music therapy to help focus a child’s attention by redirecting behaviors into more socially acceptable behavior. This can be done through stimulation of the child’s senses, as well as guidance of the therapist.

Music therapy is especially effective in promoting self-expression and response by allowing the child to play an instrument, sing, dance, or just move and express emotions in general. You may be surprised to learn that it’s fairly common for a person with autism to have a natural gift for music abilities. They quite often learn to play quickly. In fact, a few have been found to be on the level of musical genius.

Therapeutic Musical Activities

There are a few therapeutic musical activities that a licensed music therapist might consider for your child. Here are 4 popular choices in music therapy:

  1. Playing with Instruments – A musical instrument can stimulate your child’s senses, as well as be emotionally fulfilling. The therapist could use a wind instrument, or harmonica, to make your child aware of sounds that can be generated through the throat, tongue, and mouth. This can aid in encouraging speech.
  2. Listening to Music – Simply listening to a song can encourage growth in vocabulary, or even appropriate behavior. For instance, if the therapist shows the child a ball and how to bounce it, they might start singing about bouncing the ball.
  3. Dancing to the Beat – Playing a song where it encourages the child to move and dance about can help that child to better express their emotions. Dance is a very good outlet for the typical twirling or flapping of the hands and will also stimulate positive social behavior. Find the type of music that catches your child’s attention in a positive manner, whether it’s country, hip-hop, or Brazilian Music…and let them move!
  4. Singing a Song – Singing along to a song can help a child learn proper sentence structure and grammar, if the song is grammatically correct, that is. Your therapist will probably sing a portion of the song, holding an object that relates. The child then repeats it.

This is just a small example of what music therapy can do for your child with autism. If this appeals to you, please contact a couple music therapists in your area, who specialize in autism patients… and then interview them fully. It can benefit your child greatly, if you find the right therapist. And make sure to ask for references!

Music therapy is a wonderful tool in helping children with autism. If you are considering it for your child, take action now to see how it could improve their life and encounters with others.

About the Author

Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer who often writes on topics to share information she gathers through her experiences and what she learns through browsing online. In fact, she was recently visiting http://www.celebratebrazil.com, when she decided to tackle a series on all things Brazilian. Married and a mother of 2, Melissa enjoys fitness, yoga, knitting, and movies. She also enjoys keeping an eco-friendly home, eating healthy, and spending time with her family, in Austin, Texas.

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