Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. (American Music Therapy Association definition, 2005)
Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music; participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up.
Music therapy may include the use of behavioral, biomedical, developmental, educational, humanistic, adaptive music instruction, and/or other models. Music therapy enhances one’s quality of life, involving relationships between a qualified music therapist and individual; between one individual and another; between the individual and his/her family; and between the music and the participants. These relationships are structured and adapted through the elements of music to create a positive environment and set the occasion for successful growth.
How does Music Therapy help individuals diagnosed with ASD?
People with diagnoses on the autism spectrum often show a heightened interest and response to music, making it an excellent therapeutic tool.
Music is a very basic human response, spanning all degrees of ability/disability. Music therapists are able to meet clients at their own levels and allow them to grow from there. The malleability of music makes it a medium that can be adapted to meet the needs of each individual.
Music is motivating and enjoyable.
Music can promote relatedness, relaxation, learning, and self-expression.
Music therapy addresses multiple developmental issues simultaneously.
Music therapy can provide success-oriented opportunities for achievement and mastery.
The structure and sensory input inherent in music help to establish response and role expectations, positive interactions, and organization.
Music is considered a "universal language" which provides bridges in a non-threatening setting between people and/or between individuals and their environment, facilitating relationships, learning, self-expression, and communication.
Music captures and helps maintain attention. It is highly motivating and engaging and may be used as a natural "reinforcer" for desired responses. Music therapy can stimulate clients to reduce negative and/or self-stimulatory responses and increase participation in more appropriate and socially acceptable ways.
Music therapy can enable those without language to communicate, participate and express themselves non-verbally. Very often music therapy also assists in the development of verbal communication, speech, and language skills. The interpersonal timing and reciprocity in shared play, turn-taking, listening and responding to another person are augmented in music therapy with children and adults with autism to accommodate and address their styles of communication.
Music therapy allows individuals with diagnoses on the autism spectrum the opportunity to develop identification and appropriate expression of their emotions.
Because music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain, music can stimulate cognitive functioning and may be used for remediation of some speech/language skills.
Music provides concrete, multi-sensory stimulation (auditory, visual, and tactile). The rhythmic component of music is very organizing for the sensory systems of individuals diagnosed with autism. As a result, auditory processing and other sensory-motor, perceptual/motor, gross and fine motor skills can be enhanced through music therapy.
Musical elements and structures provide a sense of security and familiarity in the music therapy setting, encouraging clients to attempt new tasks within this predictable but malleable framework.
Music therapy treatment goals include:
Increased expressive and receptive language
Increased attention span and increased short/long term memory
Improved cognitive mastery and organizational skills
Improved fine and gross motor skills
Heightened and focused sensory integration
Improved impulse control and reduced hyperactivity
Increased frustration tolerance and improved relaxation
Increased range of expression and modulation
Improved communication and social skills
Increased self esteem
Enhanced sense of community and alleviation of isolation