Music Therapy: A Modern Therapeutic Approach To An Autistic Child

Dr. Habibur Rahman
 | প্রকাশিত : ০১ ডিসেম্বর ২০১৭, ১৯:৪২

Autism can usually be noticed within the first three years of lives and is recognized as a highly complex disability that affects development of social, verbal and cognitive abilities. This disorder can affect the way that we communicate with other people.

One of the reasons that music has quickly become a tool used in autism therapy is that it can stimulate both hemispheres of our brain, rather than just one. This means that a therapist can use a song or instrument to support cognitive activity so that we can build self-awareness and improve relationships with others. Music encourages communicative behavior and can encourage interaction with others, which is something that autistic children have great difficulty with.

If we look closely at the way that a band works, it is obvious that the instruments must all interact with one another, but the player only needs to interact with the instrument at first. For children dealing with autism, interacting with others can be difficult, but through introducing an instrument to their therapy, they may bond first with the object and then open up to others interacting with their instruments as well.

Music therapy research findings demonstrate that individuals with autism may show equal or superior abilities in pitch processing, labeling of emotions in music and musical preference when compared to typically developing peers. The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy lies in the areas of social-emotional responsiveness and communication  including increased compliance, reduced anxiety, increased speech output, decreased vocal stereotype, receptive labeling and increased interaction with peers. Preliminary findings also support the potential for music to assist in the learning of daily routines.

A 2009 study by Kim, Wigram & Gold found that children with autism showed more emotional expression and social engagement during music therapy sessions than in play sessions without music. These children also responded to the therapist’s requests more frequently during music therapy than in play sessions without music. Another in 2004 study from the ‘Journal of Music Therapy’ found that music in interventions used with children and teens with autism can improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures and vocabulary), reduce anxiety and improve body awareness and co-ordination.

Music therapists primarily help autistic child to improve their health in several domains, such as cognitive functioning, motor skills, emotional development, social skills  and quality of life by using both active and passive music experiences such as free improvisation, song, dance, listening  and discussion of music to achieve treatment goals.

There is a wide qualitative and quantitative research literature base which incorporates clinical therapy, psychotherapy, biomusicology, musicalacoustics, music theorypsychoacoustics, embodied music cognition, aesthetics of music, sensory integration, and comparative musicology.

Music therapy intervention programs can include an average of 18 sessions of treatment and each sessions having minimum 30 minutes duration. Music therapy comes in two different forms: active and receptive. In active therapy, the therapist and patient actively participate in creating music with instruments, their voice, or other objects. This allows for the patient to be creative and expressive through the art of music. Receptive therapy takes place in a more relaxed setting where the therapist plays or makes music to the patient who is free to draw, listen or meditate. Usually the therapist determines the method unless specifically requested by the patient. One think we must be keep in mind that the therapy should be conducted by a professional music therapist.


Dr.Habibur Rahman

Child Health & Paediatric Nutrition Specialist

Asst.Professor, IHT, Dhaka.

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