Music Therapy and Autism
For people with autism, music therapy supports:
- Improved auditory comprehension and receptive language skills
- Increased attention and improved behavior
- Enhanced social and emotional functioning
- Improved verbal and nonverbal communication
- Decreased agitation
- Successful and safe self expression
- Increased connection
Benefits of music therapy
Music therapy is an excellent way for children with autism to learn appropriate social behaviors, communicate, increase coordination, and engage in sensory integration/stimulation in meaningful ways.
There are studies showing that receptive language areas in the brain are not activated when someone speaks to a child with autism, but are activated when a person sings to a person with autism. This means that more information is being received through singing than through speaking.
Similarly, many children who are nonverbal in their everyday lives will say or sing words in the context of a familiar or new song. Singing provides a pathway to language, because music assists areas of the brain associated with both understanding and speaking language. When a child sings words, they are increasing the neural connection that can transfer to speaking the words. Music provides a rhythmic and melodic structure where language and words have a clear place to be spoken.
People with autism may struggle with integrating sensory information from the general environment. Some people are highly sensitive to sensory input, while others need to have a large amount of sensory input to maintain focus. Through a variety of active multi-sensory approaches, music therapy can address both the needs of the highly sensitive individual, as well as the needs of a person with a strong need for stimulation – ultimately helping people increase their tolerance of stimuli.
Learning to play a musical instrument can increase fine and gross motor function. Playing the piano and the guitar requires fine motor skills of moving individual fingers independently of one another. Playing drums requires the fine motor skill of grasping an object (the mallet) as well as gross motor skills of moving the torso and arms to hit drums that are spread across the span of the drum set.
While some people with autism have speech delays, sensory issues, and motor delays, others do not. In fact, many children with autism excel in music and are very musically inclined. For these children, music therapy can still be used to increase social skills, while helping them become better musicians and bring valuable talent and skill to the larger community.
We offer all of the people who participate in music therapy sessions, music lessons, and group classes multiple opportunities to perform in the community.
NMTS Autism Services
Individual Music Therapy Sessions
Children and adults with autism can benefit a great deal from individual music therapy. Some of the benefits of music therapy for people with autism are listed to the left on this page and is often recommended as an adjunct therapy for treatment of autism. Our music therapy sessions are scheduled weekly in either 30 or 60 minute sessions. Call 775-324-5521 for more information and to schedule.
Group Music Classes
Group experiential music classes are supportive and fun ways for people with autism to work on social skills through music. Our group classes include people with a variety of disabilities, so that everyone can help support each other with a variety of strengths and abilities. Each person in our classes is supported in whatever way necessary to help them be successful and to be a leader in the group when their strengths are called upon. We offer classes for a variety of age ranges. Check the online schedule or call 775-324-5521 to check availability and register.
Adaptive Music Lessons
Some of our participants with autism simply want to learn an instrument, but need modification of the traditional learning environment to help them succeed. These lessons are taught be music therapists or by music teachers who work in collaboration with the therapists to design a successful learning approach and environment for the participant. Call 775-324-5521 for more information and to schedule.
NMTS Blog Posts on Autism and Adaptive Music
Bill Roach remembers receiving the call from his daughter that his grandson, Jacob, had been diagnosed with autism. “She was pretty upset," says Roach. "I told her no matter what the problem was, she still has her family and that we would all stand by her and do...
Music. Art. Dance. Poetry. With all of the misunderstanding and division around us, it is easy to forget how crucial these are to our mental and physical health. Music and the arts can bring us together and remind us of our connection to something much bigger than...
References and Resources
Music therapy activities may include:
- Playing instruments
- Dance and movement
- Writing songs
- Musical improvisation
- Lyric analysis
- Music therapy relaxation techniques