Music therapy can support children and adolescents with neurological disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders. When applied by a registered music therapist, music can be a motivating and meaningful way for goals to be addressed in the areas of:
· Social skills and interaction.
· Emotional and Self-regulation.
· Motor skills.
Research demonstrating a stronger activation of the cortical speech and auditory areas in children with ASD when exposed to song suggests musical stimuli may more effectively engage them and assist their learning in areas of deficit (LaGasse, 2014).
Music Therapy interventions have been shown to have positive effects on behaviour, as well as improved emotional understanding and improved social and communication skills (LaGasse, 2014).
The registered music therapist uses a variety of musical interventions applied within a therapeutic relationship to specifically address the individual’s goals.
· Song singing.
· Instrument playing.
· Structured and free improvisation.
· Music and movement.
· Song writing.
· Music and relaxation.
Flexibility within the session, including flexible improvisation methods create opportunities for self-expression, reciprocal interactions, turn taking, and joint attention (Thompson, McFerran & Gold, 2014).
Listening to music affects the core structures of regulation and emotional processing (Koelsch, 2009) and music has been acknowledged to be a mood regulatory strategy (Saarikallio & Erkkila, 2007).
Music therapy can provide opportunities for safe and appropriate emotional expression, and give form and understanding to varying emotions (Saarikallio & Erkkila, 2007).
Sarah* is six years old, has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and participates in music therapy once a fortnight at her home.
Her music therapy sessions are combined with speech pathology. Her speech pathologist and music therapist co-facilitate the session to support Sarah to achieve her communication and social interaction goals.
Sarah’s goals are to increase her ability to attend to her communication partners, stay in a reciprocal engagement, stay regulated, and to reduce her anxiety. These goals are addressed by following Sarah’s initiations and engaging her in musical improvisation.
Sarah’s progress is observable each session, increasing her eye contact with therapists, increasing her purposeful use of words to communicate ideas and ability to remain calm and regulated across a variety of shared interactions for an extended period of time.
*Real name not used