Within recent decades the chances of a child being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have increased dramatically. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the term used for a collection of compound disorders of brain development. These disorders can run a range of difficulties in social contacts, as well as in various types of communication; it often manifests in repetitious behavior. The abundance of disease identification takes place because of improved related methods and awareness. Some believe this is due to the increased recognition of an autism spectrum disorder with doctors as well as parents, caregivers, teachers, and other individuals that may care about children.
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There is a plethora of investigations that reveal the benefits of music therapy for individuals with ASD; hence, this theme seems relevant to discuss. First, it will be explored why this therapy is for people with ASD. Second, the research will reveal the focus of music therapy for individuals with the disease. Third, it will be discussed whether findings support the efficacy of the treatment. Fourth, it will be examined if music therapy may be considered as an efficient alternative treatment for ASD. Due to the eagerness to develop preventive therapies after a child has been diagnosed with autism, parents and paraprofessionals rush into alternative methods to counteract the challenges.
In understanding the effects of music therapy, the literature of music therapy as an alternative treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders will be reviewed. Such an undertaking seems relevant because discovering whether music therapy helps people with ASD or not is essential. Moreover, it is necessary to understand the effectiveness of the method compared to other alternatives and how useful it is to increase the quality of life for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families.
Appropriacy of Music Therapy
To begin with, it vital to provide a definition of the phenomenon being discussed. “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program” (AMTA, 2012, p. 1). Its efficacy as an alternative treatment for children with ASD has evolved significantly over the last few decades. It has been considered as a tool for the contribution to the development of ASD children. Under this therapy, they are more likely to improve various skills they have difficulties with. The influence of the related musical methods has helped many people with ASD in their struggle against different developmental challenges in daily experiences.
Music can stimulate both hemispheres of a brain, which is among the most crucial reasons why it has become an instrument used in autism treatment. Dissimilarities in brain activities refer to progress in the framework of behavioral indicators. In these cases, “the strength of the connection between auditory and motor areas were found to be significantly related to improvements in social communication” (Stavropoulos, 2019, para. 5). It means that children who had the most substantial increases in brain connections demonstrated the most significant behavioral improvements. “Similarly, children who had decreased connections between auditory and visual brain areas showed more improvements in social communication” (Stavropoulos, 2019, para. 6). Moreover, Heaton (2005) claims that the investigation shows that individuals with ASD may have a heightened musical aptitude and sensitivity to musical elements, yet similar skills of music perception as compared to typically developing peers. Thus, a therapist may apply a song or instrument to maintain cognitive activity to help build self-reflection and develop social relations. Another cause why music therapy may be used is to facilitate autistic children’s learning to improve overall relationships with peers.
Focus of Music Therapy
The valuation process of music therapy is destined to obtain an understanding of a person’s functioning while being involved in various developmental musical experiences. This therapy intervention plan is also founded on the evaluation results. By connecting music with activities, as well as continuous training, the brain areas used for speaking may be strengthened and developed. It should be mentioned that the described method has been recognized and is widely applied as a crucial part of treatment for plenty of disorders to develop skills such as self-reflection or communication. The above benefits contribute to the fact that this therapy is perceived as an integral element of healing plans for individuals with ASD. Investigations revealed that music interventions utilized for autistic children and teens can improve their social contacts and increase attention. Most recent studies show that music therapy interventions have focused on enhancing individuals’ abilities and universal functioning.
Crucial Findings of Investigations on Music Therapy
Plenty of additional investigations have shown that children and adults with ASD respond appropriately to the therapy. Usually, persons with ASD perceive music well when little else may grab their attention, which is a great foundation for choosing it as a potential therapeutic instrument. The latter statement has been proved by the scholarly dimension, which allows arguing that the described approach has a considerable scientific foundation.
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Within the scope of the profession, peer-reviewed journals – for instance, Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives – explore the described method and determine it as an efficient instrument for people with ASD. Then, AMTA has conducted much research on the benefits that music therapy may provide. Investigated clinical consequences have put an emphasis on the application of music to address the following: communication cognition behaviors (problem/repetitive/stereotypic), social skills, and interaction emotional regulation (AMTA, 2012). Moreover, over the past decades, case studies have demonstrated the value of music therapy for people with ASD (Kern et al., 2013; Reschke-Hernández, 2011; Geretsegger et al., 2014). As already mentioned, music interventions have long been considered as an alternative therapy. Nevertheless, many investigations and the above research narrative have supported music intervention as a prospective method to develop social communication of individuals with ASD.
Music Therapy as an Effective Alternative Treatment for ASD
Studies show that early music education is extremely beneficial to all children because it increases the development of gray matter in the brain and helps improve memory. For children who deal with ASD, interactions with others can be complicated; however, the introduction of music may stimulate communications and can contribute to improved social contacting with others. For instance, music interventions may better the process of communication in autistic children through the effects of interactions between brain areas, and positive changes in these interactions take place due to behavioral improvements. The therapeutic use of music is also known for reducing anxiety, improving cognitive functioning, promoting physical rehabilitation, or enhancing interpersonal communication (Brownell, 2002). What is more, studies of early intervention have demonstrated that if autistic children learn together through a game and funny musical activity, they can create a healthy environment where parents and children can bond in a significant manner.
Taking the next step in the music therapy research process to be established as an evidence-based treatment intervention, music therapy researchers need to look carefully at this first-generation study to understand the results. It is known from clinical experience that increased musical engagement ultimately results in improved cognitive, communicative, social, and behavioral functioning. However, it is vital that second-generation studies are fielded to provide a more in-depth perspective on high-quality interventions on the efficacy of music therapy. Therefore, it is imperative to investigate this as a non-traditional outlet for autism treatment and not allow it to be overlooked as it was in the past.
To conclude, music therapy may be considered as an efficient tool that can be utilized to address a number of critical issues. Research reveals that many autistic individuals have innate musical talents. The discussed approach provides them with the opportunity to achieve significant results in their developmental experiences. The skills that individuals with ASD obtain through relations with their music therapists and the influence of the described method on their brains help them to interact and communicate with others while also becoming more self-aware. It might be rational to claim that this therapy has proved to be an appropriate instrument to use during the treatment process of ASD. Hence, continuous research on the phenomenon seems relevant and essential option. The primary aim of the subsequent investigations might be to provide further explanation on what music therapy can bring as a recognized and notable treatment approach.
Brownell, M. (2002). Musically adapted Social Stories to modify behaviors in students with autism: Four case studies. Journal of Music Therapy, 39(2), 117-144.
Geretsegger, M., Elefant, C., Mossler, K., & Gold, C. (2014). Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder. The Cochrane Library, (6). Web.
Heaton, P. (2005). Interval and contour processing in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25(6), 787–793.
Kern, P., Rivera, N. R., Chandler, A., & Humpal, M. (2013). Music therapy services for individuals with autism spectrum disorder: A survey of clinical practices and training needs. Journal of Music Therapy, 50(4), 274–303.
Reschke-Hernanadez, A. E. (2011). History of music therapy treatment interventions for children with autism. Journal of Music Therapy, 48(2), 169–207.
Stavropoulos, K. K. M. (2019). How Music Therapy Affects the Brain in Autism. New research suggests that music therapy improves social communication in ASD.