Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 1 in 59 children in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with some evidence of an even higher prevalence. Autism is characterized by significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, with more research continuing to emerge showing sensory and motor challenge. The causes of autism are still being researched and there are no known cures, although several treatments have been shown to be effective. Some effective autism therapy and treatments include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration, Nutrition and Music Therapy.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often show heightened interest, processing abilities, responses to, and talent with music. Music provides a non-threatening, safe and enjoyable medium for individuals with autism to explore and learn new developmental, communication, social, emotional, behavioral, academic, motor, and sensory processing skills.
Music therapy can be a fun and effective therapy for individuals with autism. Here is an overview by the American Music Therapy Association. Here is a summary of research supporting the use of music therapy for autism. For more information, click on the links and downloadable forms to the right. Also view our interactive music therapy and the brain map on the Music Therapy Science webpage.
We are a research-based behavioral music therapy practice, and we are the only company that integrates the scientific fields of Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This means that you receive our unique expertise and research-based methods in a fun, motivating and engaging way that have been proven effective for autism.
Music is processed in all areas of the brain and has the ability to access and stimulate areas that may not be accessible through other modalities. Individuals with autism are often able to perform tasks through music therapy that they may not be able to do through other therapies.
Music is very organizing for the brain. It provides concrete, multi-sensory stimulation (auditory, visual, and tactile) and addresses multiple developmental needs simultaneously for individuals with autism.
Music captivates and maintains attention of individuals with autism, and many are savant or possess a special talent with music. Research indicates that individuals with autism are highly responsive to music and that attention is necessary before learning can take place.
Music provides an optimal learning environment, organizes information into smaller chunks that are easier to learn and retain, and aids in memorization. Music can help individuals with autism improve their attention span, memory, sequencing, comprehension, academic skills, problem solving, decision making, and more.
Music and autism research shows that music improves the development of speech and language skills and can enable those without language to communicate, participate, and express themselves non-verbally.
By accessing and stimulating speech centers in the brain, music can facilitate improvement of a variety of verbal and non-verbal speech and language skills for individuals with autism.
Music is highly motivating and engaging and may be used as a natural reinforcer for desired responses of individuals with autism.
Music therapy can help to reduce negative and/or self-stimulatory behaviors, appropriately identify and express emotions, increase self-esteem and self-expression, and increase participation in more appropriate and socially acceptable ways such as joint attention, reciprocity, sharing and turn-taking.
Music provides a safe and non-threatening environment for individuals with autism, assisting them to relax, calm, de-stress, self-regulate, organize and control themselves.
Music provides concrete, multi-sensory stimulation (auditory, visual, and tactile). The rhythmic component of music is very organizing for the sensory systems of individuals with autism. As a result, auditory processing and integration of other sensory skills can be enhanced through music therapy.
Research indicates that individuals with autism have difficulty with fine motor skills, motor planning, motor coordination, motor control, starting and stopping their movements, and body awareness. Research shows that music therapy can be effective in improving motor skills.
Research supports parallels between rhythm and movement. Rhythm can be used as an external timekeeper to organize, coordinate and improve movement of individuals with autism.