How Music Lessons Can Help Children With Autism
The Value of Music Lessons
Over the years I have had many opportunities to work with autistic and special needs children either personally, or through my music schools with other instructors. These are a few comments and observations.
Group or classroom instruction is not as focused on an individual student's needs, so this doesn't always insure the greatest success. In music lessons, one-on-one always tend to be more productive since no single method or approach will benefit everyone the same.
Music Lessons Vs Music Therapy
It is important to stress the difference between music therapy and music lessons. In the therapeutic context, the person is not taught to play an instrument specifically, and although they may acquire musical skills in the course of the therapy sessions, this is a secondary effect and not the primary purpose of the therapy.
The reverse of music therapy is that in a music lesson context, the instructors are trying to teach the student how to play an instrument, but in the course of the lessons therapeutic results usually occur.
Music Lessons and the Special Needs Students
In spite of physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities, it is believed that all people have an innate responsiveness to music In fact, some autistic children also have exceptional musical abilities, such as pitch sensitivity also known as perfect pitch.
In a lesson, a familiar environment can be created using music as a stable reference point, and then occasionally sidetracking into moments of more spontaneous and new experiences of play. Simple songs, pieces or musical styles may be used and become a recurring component in the lessons, but change to suit the mood of the student at any given moment.
Rather than attempting to teach a set of behaviors, music instruction encourages increased self-awareness and awareness to others. This can contribute to improved verbal communication and social interaction. Turn-taking, listening and responding to the instructor may help address avoidant styles of communication as well.
Music lessons and playing music create an environment of sound in which students, feel comfortable and confident enough to express themselves, learn to experience a wider range of emotions and discover what it is like to be in a two-way communicating relationship.
Instruments of Choice
In my experience piano and drums/percussion as well as singing seemed to be the easiest instruments to make music on.