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There are multiple forms of therapy that have been developed to treat individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Various techniques are used to target and improve the emotional, social, and cognitive skills that ASD often affects. Music therapy, for example, is a popular and risk-free form of therapy that is not only fun and exciting for children and adolescents with ASD but can also substantially improve necessary developmental skills.  If you’re thinking about incorporating music therapy into your child’s routine, consider some of these benefits:

Improved Communication & Social Skills

Communication and social skills can often be more of a struggle for children with ASD.  Music naturally encourages communicative behavior and interaction with other individuals.  The idea behind music therapy is to foster communication between the child and therapist (or peers, in a group setting) to help improve speech, verbalization, and vocabulary.  A music therapist will use vocals and instruments to develop different strategies and creative ways to create a musical language that responds well to the client. Children can associate new words with songs, and can often better understand how to interact in a social setting based on the emotional messages a song may be expressing.

Cognitive Development

Improving the cognition of a child or adolescent with ASD can come with its difficulties.  Music therapy is used for cognitive development in that it uses rhythmic and repetitive patterns to improve memorization and the organization of auditory information.  A child with ASD often responds well to the repetition of a song, and the rhythm in which the lyrics are vocalized. Repetition and memorization are essential tools in helping your child learn and develop daily routines.   

Emotional Behavior

Anxiety and panic disorders are often more predominant in children and teens with ASD.  Ritualistic or obsessive behaviors are often used as coping mechanisms during feelings of anxiousness or episodes of panic.  Introducing music therapy can serve as a healthy way for your child to build a tolerance to stress or frustration and decrease anxiety.  Music programs, such as Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI), are tailored to the client and their specific form of ASD.  REI uses musical rhythms to stimulate and synchronize the client’s brain; when a client with ASD is at a peak anxiety level or is engaging in anxious behaviors, an REI recording can be played and is used to keep the client calm, and focused on the rhythm being played.

To incorporate music therapy into your child’s treatment, find a board certified music therapist.  Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) can work in school or group settings, have private practices and in-home services, or work for agencies that specialize in music therapy for individuals with special needs.