Music Therapy for Autism: The New Age Therapy

Updated on December 16th, 2019
Autism problem

Does your heart sink whenever you see your child struggling with simple actions like wearing a dress, eating food, bathing, brushing teeth, etc.? Does your child need to be continually monitored to prevent any mishappening?

Children or adults with emotional and cognitive challenges require round-the-clock supervision. The disorder of autism adversely affects the way they function and behave with others. But the good news is music therapy for autism is a silver lining in the cloud as this tool effectively develops self-awareness and improves their relationship with others.

Research conducted in 2018 observed that every 1 child out of 59 children is diagnosed with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder with 1 in every 151 girls and 1 in every 37 boys.

A study in the Journal of Music Therapy states that teens and children with autism spectrum disorder have shown improved social behavior, improved concentration levels, increased communication efforts, reduced stress and anxiety along improved body coordination and awareness.

Music Therapy for Autism

    1. Different Stages of Music Therapy
    2. Benefits
    3. How to Choose

How Does Music Therapy Work for Autism?

Music Therapy

Music therapy is getting the spotlight from the last few decades. Now, studies are accepting Music therapy for autism as it is changing the whole scenario for autism patients and physicians as well. Music therapy is like a new hope for people with autism.

This music therapy is a reliable and useful communication building tool for autistic children and teenagers. Music therapy associated with some other communicative exercise motivates and helps autistic children to develop new skills in spite of their inability and issues.

According to the ‘Journal of Music Therapy(1),’ music therapy can improve the overall response, behaviors, communication skills, body language, etc. among the autism patients. Studies have shown that autism affected people to react and respond to music.

Few studies proved that children with autism express better during music therapy. The skilled therapists have used music therapy for treating autism and share their results with the world.

A 2012 study(2) says music therapy improved aggression, restlessness, inattentiveness and other autism-related issues among autism affected children and teenagers. Music therapy works like magic for those autism patients who cannot follow verbal instructions.

Music therapy combined with action, proper training, patience, and experienced therapist can improve the condition of an autism patient.

The music itself is a multi-sensory stimulus. It involves watching, listening, reacting, and various kinds of emotions. Children with ASD showed improvements in auditory reactions, reduced restlessness, and betterment in overall behavior.

[Read Also: Alternative ways to Treat Autism]

Different Stages of Music Therapy

Different Stages of Music Therapy

The music therapy for autism goes through certain stages. A therapist thoroughly understands the situation and the general response of the autistic children. Here are the different steps of music therapy for autism treatment:

  • Assessment: In this stage, the therapist assesses the child’s condition, his or her need, current response, and behavioral struggles. The therapist also decides what other activities should get combined with music therapy for patients with autism.
  • Goal-Setting: In this stage, the therapist chooses the goal of the therapy. It can be improving the response rate, reducing aggression, bettering body coordination and overall cooperation. The therapist designs this particular stage on the specific needs of the child.
  • Activities: Depending on the goal, the therapist combines other autism treating actions with music therapy for autism.
  • Evaluation: After the designed sessions, the therapist evaluates the improvement of the child’s situation.

Each of the stages mentioned above varies from patient to patient, and all of these stages are interrelated. Generally, the patient attends some session on specific intervals. The typical duration of the session varies from 30 minutes to 40 minutes every week.

The therapist generally uses specially created instrumentals, and frequency fixed music pieces, songs, short music, nature sounds, his or her own voice, and percussion, etc. They encourage patients to choose music of their choice and allows them to make it their personal musical language.

The therapist uses pitch, octaves, and rhythms to see behavioral changes of the patient. Music therapy does not need any conventional type of song or lyrics to treat autism.

[Read Also:  Essential Oils For Autism]

5 Benefits of Music Therapy to Heal Autism

The reason that music works for the autistic patient is that music functions as a stimulus and can stimulate both of the hemispheres. To make it simple, we can say that music can boost the cognitive part holistically which controls communicative awareness, self-awareness, coordination with others. Autistic children face all these challenges, and that is why music therapy is one of the most used therapeutic tools for autistic people.

Studies have already proved the benefit of music therapy for autism. The benefits depend on the goal and situation of the patient. But here we are penning down five significant benefits of music therapy to treat autism:

Improvement in Response


Most of the autistic patients fail to connect with the therapists verbally. A few of them do not respond at all. But in the case of music therapy for autistic patients, the patient usually starts responding, depending on his or her condition.

Patients generally respond to therapists requests on basic movements, controlled screaming, etc. during these music sessions. Usually, the patient starts reacting to the musical instrument or the source first and gradually starts responding to people.

Bettering Body Coordination

Autism has different effects on different patients. Some of the patients may have body function or body balance-related dysfunctions. Music therapy improves this situation with time and patience.

Encourages Social Interaction

Social interaction is an integral part of human life. But autistic people often suffer from a lack of social interaction ability. Music therapy usually comes with soft and non-invasive games because games improve their ability to understand social behavior.

Small actions like passing the musical instrument, moving together with others, etc. during the music therapy sessions show the benefit of music therapy on autistic people. During music therapy, autistic children learn to relate with others.

Improves Emotional Expression

Emotional Expression

There are a lot of examples and case studies, where music therapy encouraged the autistic patient to express emotions. They generally laugh, smile and even clap during these sessions which proves the success of music therapy for autism.

Music is engaging and triggers different parts of the brain. Usually, ASD children interact with each other in their own way during the music sessions, express themselves, and nurture their ability to exhibit their feelings. With the increased self-awareness and self-expression, ASD affected children and the therapist discover the unique expressions of certain emotions and needs.

Works on Aggression

Few autistic patients have some behavioral issues like aggression etc. Music therapy helps them to calm down. The therapist usually combines some other clinically proven techniques with music therapy for autistic people to address this kind of problems. Music therapy for children helps to feel relaxed and keeps them stress-free.

Autistic children are more prone to anxiety and emotional imbalance. Aggression, violence, and lack of cooperation are the consequence of that anxiety and psychological issue. Music therapy reduces the spontaneous reaction and anxiety-related problems among patients.

Music therapy replaces the deficit of speech and primary communication disability among autistic children. The imitative actions, musical games, and short musical phrases generally improve the overall situation of the patient. Music therapy for autism has changed many lives so far due to the subtle but effective responsiveness of the patients during the sessions.

How to Choose a Music Therapist to Deal with Autism?

Choosing the right music therapist for treating autistic children is very important. Before selecting the therapist, the close ones or guardian or relatives of the patient should keep in mind a few things. Here are those points to consider:

  • The music therapists should have a certificate from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). A bachelor’s degree in music therapy from AMTA approved college is also a mark of eligibility.
  • The therapist must have completed a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinical training.
  • The Certification Board for Music Therapists’ credential is another eligibility criterion for music therapists.
  • The therapist should have Music Therapist-Board Certified acclamation.

Music is engaging, and music is motivating. People tend to respond with rhythm, and it subtly triggers emotions as well. Music therapy has proven its effectiveness and benefits among many types of patients.

Music is an active media and a way of communication. Moreover, it can be the only way to communicate with autistic children. Mothers can interact with their autistic kid through music. Music therapy often helps autistic children to develop basic verbal skills as well. It gives the opportunity to get a new way to interact with others.

Music therapy for autism benefited millions of souls and has given a new light to live their life. Music therapy can be a single way to connect with the autistic child. But the right process, experienced therapist, care and patience is needed to treat them.

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