Encore! The Benefits of Music Therapy for Individual With Disabilities

Music therapy is a process that helps developmentally disabled individuals improve their mental and physical abilities as well as their self-esteem. Needs are addressed through music therapy and relationships are fostered between the therapist and individual. Music therapy is not only therapeutic for the ear but the mind and body as well. During interaction, it is important for people with disabilities to have to look forward to activity that is both advantageous and encouraging. Interaction teaches individuals how to communicate better and improve decision-making skills. It also facilitates communication and socialization among staff and individuals. Communicative development varies with individuals because of functioning ability. Communication tools increase the ability to initiate, anticipate, engage, and interact. At times, a person can have difficulty using objects based on joint attention, difficulty in interpretation, and motivation however since music is a universal language, people are able to find different ways to communicate.

When people hear music they can either feel a burst of excitement, or energy, when listening to an upbeat tempo. Conversely, listening to a classical piece may place the person in a soothing mood. Studies show that music affects the overall health of any person including respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. Music therapy communicates with the body through beats, melodies and lyrics and releases stress relieving hormones. The stress of living and managing a disability can be difficult for any individual. There are many things that an individual can encounter while dealing with a disability such as emotional, social and behavioral issues.

Individuals with disabilities who are considered to be introverts can also benefit from music therapy. The opportunity to use music as a therapeutic tool can also help mentally ill individuals from negative thoughts or with traumatic experiences. Therapy tends to garner positive results and effectiveness when it is supported not only by the individual but their environment. Environment includes family, friends, community and surroundings. With support the individual will be able to improve social awareness, academics, gross and fine motor skills and attention span. Music therapy can also decrease maladaptive behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors. One facet of music therapy that usually yields positive results is karaoke. Karaoke is an interactive form of entertainment where amateur singers perform various songs with recorded music and lyrics. Karaoke is used to improve socialization and self-esteem of any individual. If an individual is able to perform a favorite song and receive praise from peers, family or staff, the mood of the individual will be significant.

Music is known as a universal language and used to bring people together from unique walks of life. Different types of music and instruments help individuals cultivate old skills or develop new skills. For individuals with disabilities, music therapy is very rewarding regarding building self-esteem and overall participation. A person who has increased self-esteem will be able to achieve attainable goals, interact with the community and foster relationships.

Music Therapy for Autism

For many parents, autism is a frightening condition that often leaves them feeling disconnected from their children. The fact that the medical community at large still has a lot to learn about autism only exacerbates the issues families face when one of their loved ones is diagnosed with the condition. Treatment options for autism are limited, and generally require intense training at considerable expense. However, in recent years, music therapy has become increasingly popular as music not only has the power to calm and soothe, but may also be exploited as a means of communication.

As a non-verbal and non-threatening medium, music therapy is safe and useful for autistic children. Music activities are developed to address their special needs. For example, social play is one area in which children with autism struggle, but musical games that include passing an object back and forth are compelling while encouraging social interactions. With music, you also have the option to create a sound together, and many common symptoms of autism can be addressed. Eye contact can be encouraged with clapping games, attention issues can be addressed by playing an instrument; and a child’s favourite music can be used as a reward for achieving cooperative social behaviours such as sitting with a group of children in a circle.

More significantly, music therapy has been found to be very effective in helping children with autism develop speech. Communication is one of the major deficits seen in children with autism, especially with regards to expressive speech which is often impersonal or entirely void. Autistic children may be completely mute or rely on very basic communication tools such as grunts, cries, shrieks, or humming. Even more advanced autistic children often rely on very basic communication skills highlighted by a lack of expression or a monotone delivery. Yet, in the music classroom, teachers often relate rewarding experiences with autistic students as they become more engaged and interactive with the music and their classmates.

There is a wealth of scientific research that supports the idea that autistic children show sensitivity to music. Sometimes they play musical instruments extraordinarily well, and the goal of music therapy is to draw on these musical sensitivities to improve communication and social awareness. Some of these children may sing even when they do not speak, and an autistic child’s responsiveness to music can easily be adapted to non-music goals. Through consistent and systematic tasks, many autistic children benefit significantly from music therapy. Songs with simple words and repetitive phrases assist with language development, and the joy of music itself can be used to encourage socially beneficial behaviours. As music therapy continues to be an effective tool for autistic children, the applications of the therapy also continue to grow. Many therapists feel that music provides necessary insight into the thoughts and feelings of autistic children.

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Autism

A professional who specializes in autism can suggest different treatment for autistic’s that can have a significant positive effect on their behavior. One such treatment is Music therapy.

Music therapy is a controlled music experience that is used to facilitate positive change in human behavior. Each session of music therapy is carefully planned, carried out, and evaluated to suit the specific needs of each patient. Music therapy can include any of the following musical activities:

o Listening to music and/or musical creation

o Playing musical instruments (any instrument can be used)

o Moving to music

o Singing

As far as autism is concerned, studies have shown that music therapy has a significant, positive influence when used to treat autistic individuals. Participating in music therapy allows autistics the opportunity to experience non-threatening outside stimulation, as they don’t engage in direct human contact.

As was previously mentioned, music therapy is made specific to each individual. This is extremely important, because what may be positively received by one autistic may be negative to another. That being said, let’s take a look at the positive influence music therapy has had on autistic individuals.

Music therapy –

Improved socio-emotional development: In the first steps of a relationship, autistics tend to physically ignore or reject the attempts of social contact made by others. Music therapy helps to stop this social withdrawal by an initial object relation with a musical instrument. Instead of seeing the instrument as threatening, autistic children are usually fascinated by the shape, feel and sound of it. Therefore, the musical instrument provides an initial point of contact between the autistic and the other individual by acting as an intermediary.

Assisted in both verbal and non-verbal communication – When music therapy is used to aid in communication, its goal is to improve the production of vocalization and speech, as well as stimulate the mental process of comprehending, conceptualizing and symbolizing. A music therapist will attempt to establish a communicative relationship between the behavior of a child with autism and a specific sound. An autistic person may have an easier time recognizing or being more open to these sounds than they would to a verbal approach. This musical awareness, and the relationship between the autistics’ actions and the music, has potential to encourage communication.

Another form of music therapy that may help with communication is to play a wind instrument (IE flute). It is thought that by playing such an instrument, you become aware of the functioning of your teeth, jaws, lips and tongue. Thus, playing a wind instrument almost mirrors the functioning required in order to produce speech vocalizations.

Encouraged emotional fulfillment – Most autistics lack the ability to affectively respond to stimuli that would otherwise allow them to enjoy an appropriate emotional charge. Thus, since most autistics respond well to music stimuli, music therapy has been able to provide autistics with an environment that is free of fear, stimuli considered threatening, etc.

During a music therapy session, an autistic individual has the freedom to behave in specific ways that allow them to discover and express themselves when they want and choose. They can make noise, bang instruments, shout and express and experience the pleasure of emotional satisfaction.

Musical therapy has also helped autistic individuals by:

o Teaching social skills

o Improving language comprehension

o Encouraging the desire to communicate

o Making creative-self expression possible

o Reducing non-communicative speech

o Decreasing echolalia (uncontrolled and instant repetition of the words spoken by another)

Keep in mind that although music therapy can have positive effects on autistic individuals, it is vital that an autistic receives such treatment from a trained and experienced musical therapist.

Treating Insomnia With Music Therapy

What is insomnia? Insomnia is a condition where people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or having a restful night sleep. Often times people who suffer from insomnia will turn to sleeping pills to get relief. Sleeping pills is a bad idea, because it will just create more problems.

What is the problem with sleeping pills? Pills are a bad idea because most sleeping pills are addictive, and basically are just a mask to what the real problem is. It also causes problems when you interact with other medications or alcohol, which can be very serious or even deadly. People who are prescribed medication are usually supposed to be on them for a few days to a few weeks only, but because they can be addictive people tend to take them longer. Pills can also cause high blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, confusion. It also can cause bizarre behavior such as sleep walking, sleep binge eating and sleep driving, in which the person will not remember.

Why it is so important to get a good night sleep? Sleep is necessary to maintain good physical and mental health. Sleep helps you to restore your body and mind, to help with memory and learning, also to help you be in a better mood. When you are sleep deprived, your body is more prone to infections, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Also when you are sleep deprived it can effect your job performance, such as forgetfulness or making mistakes, which can cause you to lose your job. So it is very important to get a good 7-8 hours of sleep if you are an adult, and more than 8 hours if you are younger.

How do you treat insomnia with music therapy? Insomnia is usually caused by your attitude or behavior, if you can change your attitude or behavior this may change your sleep disorder. Your mind plays a big part of all this. That is how music therapy can help. Music therapy uses binaural beats to stimulate your brain to a high level of relaxation, like a meditated state, to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Binaural beats is music set to certain frequencies to stimulate a certain part of your brain that allows you to get some sleep. When listening to music therapy, use headphones to get the best results. The music is soft relaxing music, that has sounds of nature like waterfalls, birds, the ocean etc. When buying music therapy CD’s or tapes make sure that it contains binaural beats, because they sell fake ones, that claim to do the same, but do not compare, so be aware. If you have any questions on music therapy or binaural beats see link bellow.