Classical music may calm children with autism

Perth, Australia – A new study shows that playing classic music may help calm and reduce stress for children on the spectrum. The study was conducted at Curtin University by Jeremy Marriott for his doctoral research project. World renowned pianist David Helfgott was asked to help choose the classic music sample. He chose Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.8, also known as Pathetique.

It’s slower, gentler and quiet and calm, conciliatory,” Helfgott told Australian news outlet ABC News 7.30. The study was inspired when Marriott heard many anecdotes from parents that playing classic music before bed calmed their children with autism. Marriott says,

“Working with a lot of different families all saying to me ‘to get little his or her name to sleep, we play them classical music’, I always thought to myself, ‘I wonder how that works?'”

To ensure he would get reliable results Marriott asked groups of fifteen children and their parents to participate in a fifteen-minute bus ride simulation built at the university. Before starting the ride he’d take a swab of saliva from each child with autism. Then, during the ride, he’d play the classical sample and take another saliva sample at the end. Over the course of a month the participants would move from the simulated bus ride to a real bus rides. The results were amazing, especially for teenager Michael Archer.

At the start of the bus ride Michael would chew on a piece of rubber while being restrained to restrict his movements. When Pathetique came on, the teenagers reaction were anything but Michael’s mother Julia told ABC News 7.30:

“His focus changed from his chewing and rocking motions, to actually looking around, wondering where this music is coming from, getting quite relaxed, yawning”

Since he started listing to classical music at school his overall mood has improved. He’s having less tantrums and is less likely to harm himself.

Source: Bronwyn Herbert on the abc Australia news site: Australian pianist David Helfgott chooses classical music for research project to help children with autism

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead.