Sadly, more than 3.5 million Americans live with some form of autism. Diagnosis in early childhood increases the successfulness of the treatment, but the disease is not curable. It will be a challenge for these children throughout their entire lives
Signs of autism can usually be observed in children between 12 to 18 months old, and sometimes earlier, however many parents don’t recognize the symptoms until their child’s speech is delayed. This extremely complex disability has a detrimental effect on speech, social, and cognitive proficiencies in these young children. In most cases, the cause of the disease is very difficult to diagnose.
How Music Can Help
Music can be an extremely useful therapy for these children because it stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, instead of just one. With music, the therapist can use an instrument or song to benefit cognitive activity. This can be beneficial for both improving relationships with other people and building self-awareness.
Additionally, learning music encourages interaction and communication with others, such as the piano coach or music teacher. This is an area that is especially challenging for children with autism. Playing an instrument within a group further encourages the child to interact and open up to others.
Benefits of Singing, Dancing, and Listening
In the same way that singing helps any young child learn to speak, autistic children can learn new words from songs. They can gain a better understanding of life and social interactions through messages expressed in songs.
When children listen to music in small groups, their confidence may be boosted enough to give them the confidence to sing along and talk about the song with others. Fine motor skill can also be improved if dance exercises are incorporated into the therapy.
Incorporating fun musical activities at home can also be beneficial to the relationship between parent and autistic child. When parents participate in musical activities with autistic children, the bond between parent and child is strengthened. Over time, siblings or other family members can participate as well.
What to Expect from Music Therapy
When working with autistic children, the music therapist will usually encourage the development of new skill by introducing new things one at a time. Singing, dancing, playing an instrument, and listening will each be incorporated patiently over time in a safe learning environment. For more information and help finding a music therapist, visit the American Music Therapy Association, Inc. website.