Autism Spectrum Disorders
Music is a special way to communicate and connect. It says, "Hi! I'm here- let's play together through music." Music provides a predictable structure that many people with autism find comforting. Yet, within this structure, music also brings novelty and fun.
Music therapists are skilled in making music a successful experience for everyone. We are sensitive to differences in sensory processing, and adapt each experience to the needs of the individual. We can work within ABA or DIR/Floortime models, as well as help parents integrate music experiences into home-life.
Communication and language development are often areas of challenge for people with ASD. Music therapists use a variety of techniques to facilitate communication- using timing, melody, and the intrinsic ability of music to build expectation.
The first step of communication is supporting the desire for back and forth interaction. As an example, think of the song “Pop Goes the Weasel.” When you get to, “the monkey thought it was all in good fun…” imagine an expectant pause that continues until a child strikes the drum with a loud “POP!” Now we finish, “…goes the weasel.” Expectation builds and provides the cue that it is it child's turn to engage in order for the music to continue.
Music encourages vocal responses. Music activates different areas of the brain than speaking, so children may find singing easier than speaking. We help clients practice vocal responses through music, develop oral motor skills, and translate sung words into regular spoken communication.
Music provides a way to engage with others that is safe and fun. Music therapy groups are a great place to practice social skills like sharing, taking turns, and listening to others.
We often practice social skills by having participants take turns playing instruments within the structure of a song. This requires kids to direct their attention outwards the music, use impulse control to wait their turn, and then engage in playing music with their peers.
Music therapists also create songs that teach kids what is expected in various social situations, from social greetings to appropriate school behaviors.
Music is a great way to capture attention and work academic and cognitive skills. We use fun music-based activities to practice skills like matching, counting, reading, and math.
Music therapy also helps kids with sensory integration and motor planning. Music making involves all the senses, and activities that combine music, movement, and visual cues can help promote healthy development.