Engaging autistic people in musical activities can significantly improve communication skills, reinforce positive emotions, and benefit many other cognitive functions. Not only is this technique enriching, but music therapy sessions are also fun!
In this blog, we will discuss:
- What is music therapy for autism?
- How does music therapy help autism?
- Can music help with stimming?
- What type of music is good for autism?
- How to do music therapy at home?
- What are the cons of music therapy?
What is Music Therapy for Autism?
As a noninvasive technique, music therapy works alongside the cognitive, emotional, social, and physical needs of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autistic individuals have a shared fascination with music, and studies have shown that it will improve their social skills and overall well-being. It serves as a bridge between self-expression and communication and brings multiple growth-promoting opportunities.
How Does Music Therapy Help Autism?
People with autism typically require a certain level of stimulation to feel calm.
As an engaging, gentle intervention strategy, music therapy for autistic children can:
- Regulate emotions. Listening to music has a calming effect, which can balance overwhelming or negative emotions.
- Help sensory stimulation. Musical elements such as tone, tempo, lyrics, and volume can match one’s needs and help them calm their senses.
- Improve motor skills. Playing musical instruments can help autistic people gain more control over their hands and general coordination.
- Improve behavior management. Like other therapy techniques, music therapy includes positive reinforcement and a reward system for desired behavior.
- Enhance communication skills. Musical activities can encourage autistic children to use gestures, make eye contact, and be more vocal. Music is considered to be a “safe space” and can help children be more comfortable with social interaction.
Music can also help people who are non-verbal be able to express themselves. If they can’t speak their feelings, they can listen to music they relate to to engage with their emotions and communicate their mood to others.
Can Music Help with Stimming?
If a person finds peace and regulation in music, then yes, music can help with stimming. Simple rhythms can manage physical actions and emotional responses, which can slow stimming frequency.
Listening to music can also be a form of stimming itself. If a person listens to a song on repeat, this is an indication that they are stimming. A stim doesn’t have to be a singular physical movement; a person may also react to music by humming, dancing, spinning, or singing.
What Type of Music is Good for Autism?
The benefits of music therapy are not limited to one type, but specific genres bring more advantages. Songs with simple structure, a strong beat, and easy lyrics are favored when someone is feeling under-stimulated. This includes songs such as “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles, “You Are My Sunshine” by Johnny Carter, and “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Classical music is another highly favored genre, as it has smooth and soft tones. The lack of lyrics makes it pleasant to listen to and can ease anxiety and destimulation.
Classical and pop music genres are preferred over jazz, folk, or rap categories.
How to Do Music Therapy for Autism at Home?
Music is a universal language, so you can take techniques and apply them at home! Not only are these ideas easy, but they are also free. Tips you can take home include:
- Making playlists to reflect specific moods. Playlist examples could consist of one that makes you want to dance, one that comforts crying, one that is uplifting, one that makes you relaxed, etc.
- Drawing while listening to music
- Playing an instrument
- Meditating or using breathing exercises while listening to music
These approaches help create a calm and supportive environment. As each person with autism has different needs, make sure to utilize music that is attentive to their individual preferences. Certified music therapists work to bring more in-depth techniques, but it’s also important to continue practicing from home.
What Are the Cons of Music Therapy?
If ingested too frequently, the pros of music therapy can quickly become cons. By this, we mean that too much repetitive listening or listening to the wrong kind of music can cause confusion and overstimulation. With proper technique application and spacing, you can avoid this phenomenon and continue to use music for good.