Music therapy is a specialized approach that utilizes the therapeutic properties of music to address the unique needs and challenges faced by autistic children. It is conducted by certified music therapists who have the expertise to design, implement, and evaluate music-based interventions. 

A group of caregivers and their children in music therapy

How Music Therapy Builds Skills 

Autistic children may have difficulty with social, emotional, language, sensory, or cognitive development. Music therapy can help address these challenges by: 

  • Enhancing communication and social skills 

  • Improving emotional regulation and self-expression 

  • Encouraging cognitive development and motor skills 

  • Reducing anxiety and stress 

  • Providing sensory stimulation and integration 

 Some advantages of music therapy include:  

  • Increased self-esteem 

  • Improved emotional well-being 

  • Enhanced creativity and self-expression 

  • Strengthened relationships and social interactions 

  • Greater overall quality of life 

 What to Expect During Music Therapy Sessions 

Music therapy can take place in various settings, such as in-home, in-clinic, or via telehealth, and is designed to address your child's unique needs and goals. During a session, your child may engage in activities such as:  

  • Playing musical instruments to improve motor skills and coordination 

  • Singing or vocalizing to enhance communication and self-expression 

  • Listening to and analyzing music to develop cognitive skills 

  • Participating in group music-making activities to encourage socialization 

  • Engaging in creative movement or dance to promote physical activity and sensory integration 

 Your child’s music therapist will develop a customized treatment plan that outlines the strategies and techniques they will use to help your child reach their goals over time. 

A caregiver and a young girl practicing music therapy skills.

Using Music Therapy Techniques at Home 

Consistently incorporating music therapy techniques at home can significantly benefit your child's development. Here are some ideas for caregivers:  

  • Sing together: Choose age-appropriate songs that your child enjoys and encourage them to sing along, focusing on lyrics, melody, and rhythm. 

  • Explore musical instruments: Provide a variety of instruments for your child to experiment with, such as drums, xylophones, or small percussion instruments. 

  • Create a soothing environment: Use calming music to create a peaceful atmosphere in your home, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. 

  • Encourage creative expression: Provide opportunities for your child to express themselves through music, such as making up their own songs or improvising on an instrument. 

  • Incorporate music into daily routines: Use music to signal transitions and help your child anticipate daily activities, such as waking up, starting mealtimes, or going to bed. 

  • Play music-based games: Engage in games that involve listening to music, such as "freeze dance" or musical chairs, to improve sensory, motor, social and cognitive development. 

 The Duration of Music Therapy 

The length of music therapy varies greatly depending on each child's unique circumstances. Factors that may influence the duration of therapy include age, the specific challenges being addressed, the severity of the challenges, and the frequency of therapy sessions. It’s important to maintain open communication with your child's therapist to track progress and adjust treatment plans as needed. 

Music therapy is an invaluable resource for children facing developmental challenges. By understanding the process and benefits of therapy, consulting a qualified professional, and supplementing therapy with musical activities at home or in the community, you can enhance your child's growth and development