Thursday, October 20, 2011

Music and the Autistic Child

In February of 2010, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) hosted a professional, Nina Kraus, from Northwestern University speaking about cognitive-sensory connection between speech and music. During her presentation on the subject, Kraus said the following: "Indeed, musical experience can enhance the very auditory processes that are often deficient in clinical populations including developmental dyslexia and autism."

This statement backs up what many parents with autistic children have experienced firsthand when registering their children in childhood musical programs. Parents have long reported children opening up in music lessons in ways that they do not open up at home. This has led many parents to incorporate music in their homes, since it seems to be something that their autistic children really respond to in a positive, productive manner.

Quite a few studies have been done on the effects of music on childhood development, and the results have been positive. As Kraus discussed at the annual AAAS meeting, there is a connection between human speech, hearing and music. There have been instances of stroke victims who could not speak, but could sing clearly. This is just one example of how music interacts in the brain in amazing ways.

This extends to children as well, especially children with autism. Children become more cooperative with lessons when music is a part of the lesson. They are able to focus on one thing for a longer period of time if music is presented in some manner. Those with speech problems are able to improve through music while those struggling with eye contact can take great strides to meeting the eye of others through music lessons.

Take it from Myra J. Staum, Ph.D., the Director and Professor of Music Therapy from Willamette University. She wrote a piece on music therapy and language for, which touched on the power of music therapy for autistic children. She said that music is an effective form of therapy that can be used to enhance skill development with autistic children. Her reason for this comes down to the basic nature of music. She said it is "nonverbal" and "non threatening."

Staum goes on to explain how autistic children can be taught a variety of skills directly through music. This allows them to overcome a lot of their delays and developmental problems, so they function better in their daily lives.

Not all parents with autistic children have access to formal music therapy for their children, but that doesn't mean other forms of musical programs designed for children can't be used effectively. Parents with autistic children can easily surround their children with music and introduce music at home. With a little creativity, parents can even teach and guide children through music just as therapists are doing around the country.

A good children's musical program offered in the local community is a great start for autistic children. They will be encouraged to interact with other children, to use their brains and bodies in new ways, and to experience language from a musical perspective. Many children with autism love music and respond to it on a deep level that has not been experienced with anything else. All it takes to get that depth of response is constant exposure to music lessons in some capacity.

For more information regarding music for children and child development programs, visit Kindermusik Asia.

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The content is our own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Kindermusik or Kindermusik Asia.

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