f you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you are always looking for treatment modalities to help them with their social challenges and bring out their strengths as a person. As a therapist and parent of an adult child with ASD, I know that I have wanted the best for my child so he can be as independent as possible.
Through various trials and studies, music therapy researchers as well as non-music therapy researchers have studied the benefits of using music with children challenged by the limitations and challenges that come with having ASD. This group of researchers wanted to look specifically at how the auditory-motor connectivity can change if exposed to music and music activities over a period of time. Their study included 51 children ranging in age from six to twelve years in which approximately half of them received music and the other half received non-musical interventions. Specifically the children in the music group were exposed to songs and improvisation techniques, which focused on socialization.
Multiple tests and evaluations set the baseline brain activity including MRI technology prior to the children receiving the two forms of treatment. One aspect that I found interesting about this study was the researchers eliminated any children who were currently receiving music therapy or music lessons in their school environment six months to a year before this study began.
After the treatment sessions were complete, results showed improved brain connectivity between the “auditory and subcortical regions…and auditory and fronto-motor regions…” (p. 1). Although, “Post-intervention brain connectivity was lower between auditory and visual regions in the music compared to the non-music groups, known to be over-connected in autism…” (p.1). Most importantly, however, parent reports indicated “improved…outcomes in social communication” (p. 7). Positive results often bleed into improved quality of life issues for the family, who are the main support system and need support in the way of effective therapies.
For more information on music therapy, visit our website at www.centralohiomusictherapy.com or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at www.musictherapy.org.
Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC
Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow
Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC
Sharda, M., Tuerk, C., Chowdhury, R., Jarney, K., Foster, N., Custo-Blanch, M., Tan, M., Nadig, A., and Hyde, K. (2018). Music improves social communication and auditory-motor connectivity in children with autism. Translational Psychiatry (2018)8:231. Doi 10.1038/s41398-018-0287-3