Autism is a developmental condition that is characterized by features such as persistent deficits in social interaction, communication, and repetitive or stereotyped behaviors, along with hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory features. The individuals also display other debilitating impairments which include motor, cognitive and attention deficits. According to the most recent research, music therapy for autism in adults is an intervention that has opened new avenues for treating attention deficits and motor impairments. Thus, music plays a noticeable role in supporting healthy motor control, attention skill, and neurodevelopment in the behavior of individuals by harnessing their artistic abilities.
Music is a proven professional health disciplined therapeutic way that instigates the development of speech (singing); motor skill (steps); memory (academic material), mood and attention in participants. With music as a therapy, the therapist focus on enhancing communication, social interaction, and emotional outcomes.
Producing speech is the main goal of music therapy for autism. It focuses on speech developmental and language training through playing musical instruments, singing, and chanting. Music for autistic adults combines videos of songs and speech composed by the therapist. Both music and speech training increase verbal production. Interestingly, low-functioning children seemed to have greater gains in the music condition. This therapy also favors the curbing of echoic production of speech both in children as well as adults.
The therapeutic approach of music therapy for autism is for developing self-expression and communication for the rehabilitation of apt socio-emotional functioning. For children and adults with autism, music therapy intervention is conducted in a structured group where the participants are involved in group activities that include both musical and non-musical activities such as games. They learn to perform in a group, share their belongings and also interact with one another. The post-therapy results prove that individuals significantly improved in joint attention with peers and eye gaze with others while working in a group.
Apart from regenerating social, communication and interaction skills, music has also shown growth in providing an understanding of emotions in individuals with autism. They are taught to recognize the four different types of emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, and fear through background music that denotes each emotion. They gradually learn to recognize and differentiate a frightful emotion from a happy one. This emotional awareness allows them to respond to suitably in social situations.
Individuals with autism learn to communicate, socialize and display their emotions more easily through music. This therapy also brings about:
- Increased attention span
- Improved behavior
- An enhanced auditory processing
- Improved cognitive
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Improved verbal skills
- Renewed self-expression skill
- Better sensory-motor skill
Thus, music for autistic adults is a rhythm-based intervention for treating autism. It is an ‘entertaining pathway’ towards social adaptation, joy, and renewed parent-child relationships.