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How Music Therapy Helps To Treat Autism

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“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” -Victor Hugo

As a special educator, I get to work with some pretty spectacular students. I work with elementary-aged students, grades 2-5, who have a diagnosis of autism. My students access an alternate curriculum and spend a large portion of their day in a self-contained classroom.

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My students leave me in awe, every single day I work with them. I love seeing them make progress and grow as individuals, and they do! However, more often than I’d like, I see them struggle, especially with communicating and forming relationships with other people. My students have a range of communicative abilities-some are entirely nonverbal and rely on a speech output device, others have some verbal language but often do not use it in a functional manner and others still possess stronger verbal language skills but they all have a hard time interacting with others and making themselves easily understood. This leads to frustrations and unwanted behaviors. And it can be an unfortunate cycle. We spend a tremendous amount of time working on communication and social skills-everything from being able to express simple wants and needs to interacting with a peer-there are so many complexities in language that I take for granted. Needless to say, we work tirelessly on helping the students communicating what they feel or want to say and helping them understand and respond to what others are feeling or saying.

Through all of our hard work, I can say we find a way to have a little bit of fun, every now and then! We definitely spend time celebrating all the big and small ways the students make progress and music is always part of the celebration. My kids love it and I find ways to weave it in throughout the day. My students are engaged by music-putting music on changes the entire tone of the room.

I am always finding ways to work songs or music into what we are doing. Music has such a positive impact on our entire classroom and I am excited at the prospect of broadening its scope. This grant, “Promoting Communication Skills and Social Engagement with Music Therapy”, proposes to provide music therapy to my students at Point Pleasant Elementary. Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional.

A 2004 study from the Journal of Music Therapy found that music in interventions used with children and teens with an autism diagnosis can improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures, and vocabulary) and also reduce anxiety. The music therapy approach is engaging and interactive, capitalizing on the universal appeal of vocal and instrumental rhythm, melody and harmony.

03 December 2019

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