Can Music Therapy improve my child's behavior?

"Music is the medicine of the mind" --John A Logan

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the use of music to attain non-musical goals.  When working with children with autism, I use specific musical and rhythmic techniques to meet behavioral, social, and physical goals.

Why is Music Therapy especially therapeutic
for children with autism?

People with diagnoses on the autism spectrum often show a heightened interest and response to music, making it an excellent therapeutic tool to reach them.

Music is a very basic human response, spanning all degrees of ability. Music therapists are able to meet a client wherever he is and help him to grow from there.

And Music Therapy is fun!  Children are not usually aware that it is "therapy" and often look forward to the next session.

What specific behavior improvements can Music Therapy address?

Music Therapy can be effective in addressing many typical characteristics of autism.

I worked with a 2 year old boy of with autism who spent our first four sessions running in circles.  Then I found the right musical stimulation, and he became engaging and interactive with me in a way he was not with any of this other therapists.  His family saw a little boy playing and having fun without the self stimulation or aggression they saw on a normal day.  He would sit and attend for 45 minutes and then show frustration when the time was up. 

I have had the pleasure of working with children of all ages with Autism, and find that they flourish with musical stimulation and are able to work on many goals that are unattainable through traditional means. 

Behavioral Goals:
  • Reduce negative or self-stimulatory responses - Music Therapy focuses on increasing participation in more appropriate and socially acceptable ways.
  • Taking turns and playing with others - Especially in group sessions we can work on shared play and turn-taking.
  • Conversation and Interpersonal Skills - Music Therapy accommodates and addresses the client's style of communication through listening and responding to another person.
  • Increase attention span - Music is highly engaging and motivating and may be used as a natural reinforcer for desired responses.
  • Build confidence to attempt new tasks - Many people with autism have innate musical talents.  Music Therapy provides an opportunity for clients to experience success in their areas of strength, while musical structure provides a predictable but malleable framework to build toward new objectives.
  • Appropriate expression of emotion - Music Therapy allows individuals with diagnoses on the autism spectrum the opportunity to develop identification and appropriate expression of their emotions.
  • Social norms - Music Therapy can reduce "bad" behavior by promoting social norms.  This can be especially useful in school settings, where we can work on small social rituals like greetings, or large events like dances.  
Family Goals:

An individual’s growth through Music Therapy can improve the quality of life for the whole family.

  • Family involvement - The shared, equalizing experience of making music together can improve family cohesiveness, support, and coping skills.  Family members can also experience alternative ways to interact, socialize, and communicate with their loved ones. 
  • See your child in a "different light" - Participation in Music Therapy often allows family members to witness their child’s strengths, providing hope for the future and belief in the individual’s abilities.

How can I get started?

When you're ready, you can contact me to set up an appointment.  Typically our first meeting is a no-cost consultation where we discuss your child's condition, the goals you'd like him or her to pursue through Music Therapy, and get a sense for who I am as a therapist.

If you're not ready to call yet, I've compiled much more information about Music Therapy that you can review from the navigation bar on the left.  I'd recommend starting with What to Expect from a Music Therapist, and the more detailed Music Therapy and Autism pages.

Is There Research to Support Music Therapy for Individuals with Autism?

Yes!  You can find extensive research through peer-reviewed journals. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) maintains a research bibliography of select articles and publications for those interested in specific research examples.  There are also two peer-reviewed journals within the profession: the Journal of Music Therapy, and Music Therapy Perspectives