Music Therapy in Autism

vkearns's picture

Having recently completed a research essay, I have found that there are many excellent research studies involving music therapy and its use for autistic children. Some of the studies seemed to be limited to very small subject groups. The benefits seen in these studies showed changes in social skills, behavior modification, and social interaction. Some of them also addressed language function and learning. One of the studies viewed was focused on the treatment of children who demonstrated stereotypy, defined in this study as repetitive use of vocal sounds, gutteral uterrances, or repetition of specific sequence of words from favorite TV shows. In both a three year old girl and a five year old boy studied, progress was seen in decreasing stereotypy by using intensity and type of music in the therapy

. In a group therapy environment the children involved demonstrated improved peer interaction and attention. Children were encouraged to incorporate motions and simple choreography to the music. As well as performing the actions themselves, the children were able to interact with others with decreased anxiety. 

Mathematical rythms of music seem logically to appeal to the children who desire control of their environment. There are ongoing larger studies involving the neural responses of autistic children to musical sequences. It will be interesting to see as larger groups are studied how music can be incorporated as a useful and encouraging alternative to traditional therapy.