Music Therapy Meets Autism
For most adults and children who are neurodivergent, music is one of the ways to find freedom of expression and tap into a more creative side. In fact, for many of our clients, their journey to understanding and being autistic is enhanced and more fun through a variety of music therapy outlets.
Many families with autistic members, as well as autistic individuals themselves, are drawn to music therapy because it offers a unique and engaging approach to addressing a variety of support needs. As music therapy experts and practitioners in the South Florida community, we want to showcase some of the most common benefits of leveraging music therapy as a helpful, enjoyable outlet for anyone, but specifically autistic people.
Common Music Therapy Approaches for Autistic People
Before diving into the benefits and highlighting why many of our clients are so pleased to have found a music therapy provider that addresses their specific needs or challenges, let’s talk about what music therapy often looks like.
While no two methods are the same, there are a few more common approaches to music therapy for clients diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions. By working with our clients to determine what specific challenges they’d like to work towards overcoming, their goals associated with music therapy, or what they’d like to learn from their time in music therapy, we’re able to create more specific approaches for everyone.
For example, the individual and music therapist work together to create original songs or compositions. This experience can help develop self-expression, cognitive skills, and emotional awareness. The music therapist may assist with writing lyrics, selecting chords, or creating melodies, depending on the person's support needs and interests.
In another approach, the music therapist and individual will engage in spontaneous, creative music-making using instruments or voice. This experience encourages communication, self-expression, and emotional regulation. The music therapist may adapt their playing style to match the individual's level of engagement and support their musical exploration.
Music therapists select and play music that aligns with the individual's preferences and needs. The chosen music may have specific rhythms, melodies, or tempos that evoke desired responses, such as relaxation or increased engagement. The music therapist may also use music to facilitate discussions around emotions or personal experiences.
Throughout the intervention, the music therapist will continually adapt the activities to the individual's needs and abilities, ensuring a supportive and engaging environment. The ultimate goal is to provide a positive and impactful experience that supports the person's overall well-being and development.
Specific Benefits Of Music Therapy for Individuals with Autism
Many of our autistic clients report lower levels of stress, higher levels of creativity, and an overall easier time navigating life’s various obstacles and challenges. When we dig deeper into these benefits, we’re able to uncover a long list of significant results following both initial and consistent engagement in music therapy practices.
Improved Social Skills
Because many of our music therapy options take place in a group setting, participants are able to practice social engagement in a safe, inclusive, controlled space. By having fun with others in a similar age group or facing similar challenges or struggles, they’re able to develop more comfort in social settings and nurture their sense of outgoingness.
For many autistic people, confidence can be a top priority or support need. Music therapists are great at seeking out and acknowledging the strengths of their clients, and leveraging those strengths to develop confidence during sessions. Intentional focus on strengths is a great way to feel a sense of pride. By spending time doing things that we’re good at, we develop a greater sense of confidence in ourselves and our abilities, and this is especially true during music therapy.
Stimulated Cognitive Functioning
Music therapy often engages all areas of the brain. In doing so, individuals are able to strengthen a muscle that often gets forgotten about. By prioritizing brain strength and overall brain health through cognitive functioning, many are able to benefit from improved language skills and abilities and clearer, more efficient processing.
Positive Engagement of Senses
Overstimulation and sensory sensitivity can be a huge concern for many of our clients. But through intentional music therapy techniques, music therapists can help participants to engage individual senses intentionally, combining them over time to help strengthen them all collectively. Sight, sound, touch, and even smell and taste can be incorporated into music therapy practices to expose sensory stimulation over time.
Increased Sense of Security
A consistent schedule and reliable routine is one of the ways many autistic people prefer to develop an increased sense of security. And for many families with young autistic people, this increased sense of security in their little one is a top priority. By developing a comfortable routine full of trustworthy care providers, many of our clients benefit from a more secure sense of self and surroundings.
Individualized Attention and Acceptance
Some of our music therapy clients prefer individualized music therapy plans. Not only does this allow us to spend one-on-one time getting to know a client, it also enables individuals to feel seen, heard, understood, and respected by their therapists. This individual attention and nurturing can be another great perk of personalized therapy plans and individual sessions.
More Secure Sense of Self
For many clients, developing a better understanding of song lyrics can help them process their own feelings and challenges. By paying closer attention to the words of a song, they can also begin to gain a better understanding of different emotions as they relate to themselves and also others. This further enhances their social skills, as a result.
The list goes on…
As we mentioned before, this is only a short list of benefits that many of our clients report after visiting us for music therapy. Regardless of whether or not they have any musical talent, or even interest, music therapy has proven to be a valuable, accessible tool for them as they identify and seek to accomplish their personal goals.
The House of Music Therapy prioritizes the comfort and accessibility of autistic individuals, especially because we’re proud to have staff members who leverage their own experience with a neurodivergence to develop more enriching, approachable programs for those in similar situations.
If you have questions about autism and music therapy, or whether or not music therapy might be a good option for you or your family, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! You can learn more about who we are, who we work with, and how we work with our clients on our website.
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