Can you think of a time you were moved by music? Made to smile, made to dance, made to cry? Chances are, you can think of more than a few.
Music is a universal language. It has the unique ability to cut through mental fog and alter our moods, with minimal effort from us as listeners. The human response to music is innate and inherent, and spans across all degrees of ability.
For children with autism, music therapy can increase quality of life, for life.
At the most basic level, engagement with music promotes self-determination, happiness, lower anxiety, and self-expression. On a deeper level, music therapy stimulates multiple parts of the brain at once to address multiple common challenges that come with living on the autism spectrum.
If you are considering connecting with a music therapist, you probably have questions.
What Makes Music Therapy so Beneficial?
The benefits of music therapy services are, in a way, up to you. At The Groovy Garfoose, we focus on setting goals—both musical and non-musical—so we can measure the effectiveness of your sessions.
When you join us for music therapy, one of our board certified music therapists will help you create a plan for your child’s success.
Aside from your family’s specific goals, music therapy has a great number of universal benefits for children with autism. It starts within the brain, and moves outward to your child’s behavior, temperament, social skills, communication skills, and then to their quality of life as a whole.
Your Brain on Music
The core domains of autism are social interaction, verbal communication, initiating behavior, and social-emotional reciprocity. The Cochrane Collaboration recently provided evidence that music therapy can help children with autism see improvements across these domains.
Music therapy helps strengthen the connection between the parts of the brain that need to collaborate in order for communication and sensory intake to happen smoothly. Music therapy also weakens the connection between brain regions that are commonly over-connected in people with autism.
In other words, music therapy helps bring people with autism toward a balance that makes it easier to take in stimuli and to communicate with others.
Music Therapy: How Does it Make Life Better?
As music therapists, we get the chance to see children with autism work toward their goals for higher qualities of life every day.
What does that look like? Music therapy makes life better in so many ways:
- Provides success-oriented opportunities for non-linear learning and growth.
- Helps establish response expectations, positive interactions, and organizations, thanks to the natural structure and sensory input that comes along with engaging with music.
- Serves as a non-intimidating setting for making connections between a child and other people, or between a child and their environment, promoting social skills, self-expression, self-reliance, and communication skills.
- Music naturally captures attention, so it is excellent for motivation and “reinforcing” desired responses.
- Encourages children to participate in appropriate, socially acceptable ways by reducing negative or self-stimulatory responses.
- Enables children without verbal language to express themselves and communicate nonverbally.
- Assists in communication skills by practicing interpersonal timing and reciprocity, through shared play, taking turns, and listening and responding to other people.
- Helps children notice, identify, and address their emotions in an appropriate manner.
- Stimulates cognitive functioning and improves speech and language skills.
- Provides auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation in a safe, predictable environment.
- Enhances sensory-motor, perceptual/motor skills, and gross and fine motor skills thanks to the rhythmic, repetitive, organized nature of music.
- Encourages children with autism to try new things in a predictable yet adaptable framework for learning.
Is Music Therapy Right for my Child?
When looking for music therapy, it can be difficult to determine what sort of environment and session style will be best for your child. To make that decision, you will need to know what to expect from each type of music therapy.
The Groovy Garfoose offers Neurologic Music Therapy for autism. Neurologic Music Therapy uses music to help people with autism execute non-musical cognitive functions at a higher level.
This type of music therapy focuses on the brain’s neurological processes, on top of social science models for increasing quality of life. So, while your child is enjoying the fun experience of playing music, their brain is reaping the benefits.
Session Settings for All
Music therapy sessions at The Groovy Garfoose are open to all ages and come in a few different formats: one on one sessions, group sessions, and social groups.
- One on One Music Therapy Sessions: Private music therapy sessions connect your child intimately and exclusively to one of our board certified music therapists. Your child will learn through interactions with their therapist. Their goal is to help your child achieve their non-musical goals while boosting their self confidence and lifting their spirits with music.
- Group Sessions: Group therapy sessions are especially effective in strengthening social skills within peer groups, since your child will be making music with other children, not just their music therapist. Group music therapy opens children up to a wide array of stimuli and sensory experiences. It provides practice for appropriate response in social situations, and opportunities to bond with new friends through music.
- Social Groups: Want a more laid back, casual setting for your child’s music therapy experience? Social groups at The Groovy Garfoose give children with autism a chance to practice their social skills in a natural and structured environment. Groups of friends get together and bond through making music together, practice communicating, social sharing, and work toward their individual goals—and have a blast while they’re at it.
Can Adults Benefit from Music Therapy?
There is no age cutoff for the benefits of music therapy for people with autism.
If you are an adult with autism looking for music therapy, The Groovy Garfoose is the place for you! We work with individuals of all ages, from the age of diagnosis to the end of life.
At any age, music therapy builds communication skills and social skills, strengthens cognitive abilities, and encourages healthy self-expression.
What Can I Expect From a Music Therapy Session?
A good music therapy session should be focused on your child’s present needs and long-term goals.
The way that these goals are met will vary from child to child, but will always leverage the unique ability of music to impact the brain and provide feelings of safety and joy.
During your music therapy session, you can expect a variety of activities:
- Music instruction with a variety of instruments
- A hello song to signify the start of the session
- A visual schedule to provide predictability, choice, and control
- Your child’s preferred music
- Following color-coded patterns on a drum, xylophone, bells, or keyboard
- LIVE music with adjustments for tempo, key, and instruments depending on the needs in the moment
What Should I Look for in a Music Therapist?
In order for music therapy to be effective, you need to find a highly qualified, board certified music therapist who also personally connects with your child.
Setting Goals for Success
A music therapist should always be a trained professional. They work with their clients’ musical skills as a tool to reach non-musical goals.
Those goals should not be pre-established to fit every child the music therapist sees. A good music therapist works with their clients and their clients’ families to identify needs.
Those needs and goals can relate to behavior, cognitive skills, psycho-social skills, communication and language skills, sensory issues, and fine and gross motor skills. Goals will be selected and prioritized with the child’s best possible quality of life in mind.
Once needs are identified, your music therapist should help you choose specific, achievable goals for your child’s music therapy sessions. It is then their job to design every session to move your child closer to the achievement of those goals—while, of course, maintaining an enjoyable, safe, and growth-oriented environment.
How Will I know if my Child’s Music Therapy Sessions are Successful?
As your child attends their music therapy sessions, their music therapist will carefully document their responses. They will continuously evaluate the effectiveness of techniques and activities, and make recommendations for adjustments based on their observations.
To be considered a professional music therapist, an individual must have a bachelor’s degree (or higher!) from a college or university approved by the American Music Therapy Association. To obtain the bachelor’s degree, candidates must complete 1200 hours of clinical training, including an internship.
Board Certified Music Therapist: What Does it Mean?
When searching for the right music therapist for your child, you will want to make sure your candidates are all certified through the Certification Board for Music Therapists.
The Certification Board for Music Therapists is a third-party, accredited organization. Their purpose is to identify the music therapists who are able to practice music therapy at the current level of the profession, based on the therapist’s knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Once therapists complete the bachelor’s degree, they can take the national board certification exam to obtain the “MT-BC” (Music Therapist – Board Certified) credential.
All of the music therapists at The Groovy Garfoose are board certified music therapists, and engage in continuing education. With us, you can be sure that your child is always receiving research-based, high quality, up-to-date music therapy.
Why Choose The Groovy Garfoose?
At the Groovy Garfoose, our team of board certified music therapists works hard to provide music therapy that is up to date with the latest research, advances in technology, and best practice strategies.
We believe in the power of music and person-centered treatment to promote growth and wellness for every child.
If you’re interested in learning more about how music therapy can help your child with autism, reach out to us for a FREE thirty minute consultation!