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Using Music Therapy to Treat ASD

Music therapy is an established method of treating a wide variety of developmental and emotional afflictions, and is rapidly gaining acceptance in treating patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research has shown how children and adults with this condition can benefit in a number of ways from music therapy.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD refers to a host of disorders, one of them simply known as autism, which together affect the ability of a person to communicate and interact with others. Approximately one in 70 children born in the United States will develop some form of ASD. Although the cause is not totally understood, ASD is believed to be either inherited or possibly brought about by exposure to hazardous chemicals. Fortunately, ASD does respond favorably to certain forms of treatment, one of which is music therapy.

The Wonders of Music

Although most humans enjoy it strictly for entertainment, music is also a method of communicating that is universally recognized. The fact that music does not require any special abilities to appreciate makes it useful as a form of therapy. In the treatment of ASD, music therapy can build the social skills of patients while at the same time reducing their anxiety levels. Exposure to rhythmic sounds over time can even make the patients more independent in their pursuit of music and sound-making.

How Music Therapy Works

In treating ASD patients, music therapists may use percussion instruments, including drums, or their own voices. Even simple musical arrangements can help improve the way autistic patients think and behave by allowing them to respond using whatever verbal sounds they are themselves capable of producing. Acknowledgment by the patient of the musical sounds will indicate a successful interaction and thus a successful session. A child development specialist who has completed board certified behavior analyst online programs says music therapists may work with patients on an individual basis or in groups, if they feel the latter would be beneficial.

Finding the Best Treatment for Children

Parents will normally notice a developmental disability by the time their child is about 2 years old. However, they will have to determine the nature of the problem before considering a treatment plan. Significantly, music therapy can be beneficial when the condition involves sensitivity to certain tones or sound levels.

Music therapists usually work for government organizations, school districts or individual institutions. Their services are often financed by government agencies, but they may also be covered by private insurance. A certain amount of research by the parents will be needed to determine what type of treatment is best for their children.

Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for posting this article. My latest album is actually autobiographical in its musical/lyrical content as an expression of the range of emotions my wife and I went through as our son was diagnosed with ASD. In the spirit of spreading the word about Autism awareness, pick up the album for free here:


I wonder if the effect would be enhanced by music that is tuned to 432 hertz, which seems to be more related to frequencies found in nature, than the 440 hertz which was adopted as a standard only as recently as 1940. I suppose it would be silly to suggest there is a causal factor, along with other environmental parts per million.

totally agree with this, my daughter has Asperegers syndrome and I have found music to really comfort her. I also noticed more so when she was younger that certain tones of music really helped when communicating with her. ASD Sufferers don't really understand the world in the way that those who don't have it do. They have difficulties in connecting emotions so music is a good way to help them express how they are feeling and also to help them understand the way they are feeling also.

thanks for this post. I have shared amongst my network!

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