Unique challenges call for unique approaches. The mind of an autistic person has not developed the same way that the mind of a neurotypical has. It follows, that the mind of an autistic person may not learn through the same methods that are prescribed for a neurotypical. A different means through which an autistic learner can receive information, interact with it, and respond to it, might mean greater gains in language and emotional growth. In fact, research and evidence proves that one of these means – music therapy – is just different enough to conform to the unique mind of a person on the autism spectrum and develop their cognitive functioning.
Different does not mean innovative for the sake of standing out a midst the various techniques becoming available to truly help people on the autism spectrum. Recent articles by Autism Daily Newscast have reported on creative techniques that were discovered to develop the abilities of people with ASD, mostly in the area of communication. These techniques and solutions ranged from horseback riding to service dogs, which also supported the autistic individual and the family in the daily concerns of life with autism, such as safety and stability.
Music therapy is a related service and a distinct type of approach to reach autistic learners where they are at in order to inspire them to productively engage their cognitive processes toward progress. There are several factors that make music therapy work. One of these factors is the nonthreatening environment that music therapy creates. Learning happens in an intuitive manner through the strategic use of music and the planned activities that correspond with the goals of a therapeutic session. Forefront in these goals is communication and building relationships. The American Music Therapy Association states that
“Music can promote relatedness, relaxation, learning, and self-expression. Music therapy addresses multiple developmental issues simultaneously.”
Music therapy takes a holistic approach in developing the abilities of autistic individuals, similar to the TEACCH program as discussed in a previous article. It is important for the whole person with ASD to be considered during a learning session because one area of struggle will impact all of the other areas of an individual. Because a certified therapist is directing the session, the therapist can see which areas need growth, while at the same time engaging the individual on other levels. Music makes this possible. Studies have shown that many people on the autism spectrum respond well to music. Their interest level to engage increases because of music. Additionally, many autistic people are gifted in music, so music therapy becomes a means to self-discovery, self-esteem, and expertise.
Music therapy is a strategic intervention plan and more will be written regarding the technical aspects behind the effectiveness of music therapy.