Music therapy is a powerful tool for helping children with special needs. “Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings,” explains the American Music Therapy Association.
Here are 5 ways that music therapy can make an impact in the life of mentally or physically delayed children.
1. Speech and Communication
Music therapy can have powerful benefits for helping to develop language skills. A behavioral analysis published in Music Therapy Perspectives showed that preschool children placed in early intervention music therapy programs showed “high on-task behavior during sessions and a high success rate in language development, […] cognitive concepts.”
Communication is encouraged during a music therapy session by goal-oriented interactions with the teacher and any peers that might be present as well. Simple instructions are given which then require some kind of response. And most importantly, music therapy involves singing which is a great way to practise vocalizing.
2. Motor and Sensory Skills
Another important benefit of music therapy is its benefits towards increasing agility of motor and sensory skills. Clapping, beating rhythms and playing with instruments are incredible ways to improve coordination and refine motor control.
In addition, music therapy has demonstrated a “significant effect on a patient’s perceived effectiveness of treatment,” according to a 2010 report by the American Music Therapy Association. This improved relaxation, respiration rate, anxiety levels and reduced physical pain.
3. Behavioral and Emotional
Music therapy is a method of addressing emotional and relational issues. Survey research on autistic participants in music therapy noted growth in behavioral and psychosocial skills, according to the Journal of Music Therapy in 2005. Parents and caregivers of the participants reported a positive increase in their children’s skills and responses after one year of exposure to music therapy.
4. Self-Confidence Boost
Music therapists set manageable goals to lead their students through. This leads to a boost in self-confidence as children experience success in following musical tasks and begin to experience making their own sounds and rhythmic patterns.
“Music therapy builds up a child’s self-esteem and feeds their spirit. With all the struggles that children with special needs face, it is so important to support them in this way. Music therapists are trained to create success-based activities that address developmental skills,” writes Ryan Judd who holds his master’s degree in music therapy and is the founder of music therapy group The Rhythm Tree.
5. Outlet for Expression
Music is a fantastic outlet for a person’s pent up feelings. For participants who struggle with communication and language, music can be just the right release for demonstrating their excitement, anger, worry, sadness or any range of emotions which they might not have properly communicated before.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN, wrote that in his personal experience music therapy proved “emotionally uplifting.” Music can be an alternative language for helping patients let go of frustration or anxiety and feel freer and more connected.
So whether it is finding a certified music therapist in Chicago or beginning drum lessons in San Diego, music can have an incredible impact in the life of your child.
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