Music Therapy for Kids on the Autism Spectrum: A Good Idea?

"My 8-year-old son with high functioning autism loves to sing and wants to join the boys choir at his school. Would this be a good idea? From past experience, he seems to do poorly in group participation activities."

I think this will be great therapy for your son!  In fact, music therapy is how I got started working with autistic children way back in the mid 1980's (before we even knew about Asperger's). Music therapy has been used in conjunction with other therapies for many disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Plus, singing in a group will help with social skills.

As it turns out, music therapy is a great fit for ASD children because it's non-verbal (and non-threatening). It improves the youngster’s ability to be successful at things that are more social, such as tossing a ball to music or using sticks or cymbals to help the child modulate his or her interpretation of sound. Also, therapists can use the child’s preferred music as a reward or as a way to soothe him or her.

Music therapy helps kids with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's to speak better as well. They tend to be able to learn words and to hold onto those words longer when music is associated with the learning of the words. 
Also, when taught to both autistic children and non-autistic (i.e., neurotypical) children at the same time, music therapy is a great way to integrate ASD children into the social aspect of being around other kids. Few adjustments need to be made to the music class, and the autistic kids can mimic the behavior of neurotypical ones.

Interestingly, in many situations, it’s been found that young people on the spectrum can exhibit great musical ability. Some have perfect pitch while others learn to play musical instruments and can be competitive with other children in their musical abilities. 
This is probably one of the best reasons that moms and dads should have their ASD child in music class. They may have abilities beyond that which a parent can know that can improve the youngster’s self-esteem greatly.

In addition, some children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's are fairly quiet, non-talkative individuals - but can communicate very well through their singing voice. This can be a great help to the child who needs to communicate somehow with parents and teachers. Kids on the autism spectrum can learn meaningful responses when incorporated into a song.

Music therapy is one of the most advantageous types of therapy a child on the spectrum can have. From improved communication to improved socialization, many aspects of the child’s life can be maximized.

For help with social skills development that will assist your son in group situations, click on this link: Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said... Encourage anything he's interested in! Music was my lifeline when I was diagnosed. Because I loved it, it didn't matter if it was a group thing or if it was one on one. It was my coping strategy. If it helps with group settings with your son, even better!

•    Anonymous said... Go for it, he can always stop if he does not enjoy it. I think it's great he is showing an interest and as he is the one suggesting it there is more chance of it being a success! I tend to follow my son's lead in choosing after school activities and so far it's worked well. Granted some of his choices would not be my first option lol I hope he has an awesome time.

•    Anonymous said... i have a family member with a/s who sings in a choir,they have even traveled abroad ,she adores it.

•    Anonymous said... Let him, my youngest can't handle group activities and he joined the Kupa Huka group at school as loves performing and he loved it, and did well at it must admit also improved his co-ordination and confidence.

•    Anonymous said... let them try new experiences don't hold them back just in case give them tools and permission to go to a neutral zone if anxious and make sure all adults are aware jp has been doing the science fair where it is quite loud and busy and he has really surprised me. I am so proud of him.

•    Anonymous said... My Aspie son LOVES music and singing and really enjoys the choir. Although it's a group thing, he doesn't have to interact with them as such, just sing along with them

•    Anonymous said... My Aspie son loves music... has played violin for years, didn't do so well Suzuki style but did fine with group Orchestra. Did choir last year, the only boy in a dozen... did great! Granted, part of this was because he didn't have to deal with the other boys in his class, who can be a bit pushy!

•    Anonymous said... My son started choir around that age and flourished. Made friends in the choir room at school. When he gets stressed he goes there to de-stress. At 15 he still loves choir and wants to continue with music. I highly encourage it.

•    Anonymous said... Yes! Its an excellent idea, especially if he has a good voice and loves music! My son loves music and he plays the cello. He likes most string instruments and loves to sing! Music has made a huge difference in his mood and life! I recommend highly!!

•    Anonymous said… Follow whatever they are passionate about... that has been our experience with LB and it seems to work out. Good luck!

•    Anonymous said… Go for it! Just make sure you have good communication with the chorus teacher. My Aspie struggled with some of the social aspects and her perfectionism was a challenge, too. Thankfully, with understanding teachers it continues to be a worthwhile endeavor. My daughter has learned she has a knack for band, chorus and acting as well.

•    Anonymous said… My son was part of the Chorus from staten island that sang at the 2011 academy awards and he's an aspie! I also had my doubts but let him be and try and he did fantastic! He became desensitized to noise and overstimulation and being part of something so special helped his self esteem! He also started giving better eye contact and his grades improved. My advice is let him try he might surprise you like my son did.

•    Anonymous said… The nice thing about choir is it is a social activity with a high degree of structure. I am not a music therapist, but am a music teacher. It has been my experience that children may do very poorly in many group and social settings, yet have a high degree of success in choir if they enjoy singing. I have seen this success pleasantly surprise both the child and the child's peers. It can be a very good thing, or it might not work out, but you won't ever know if you don't let him try.

•    Anonymous said… YES!!!! Our kids tend to be gifted with perfect pitch and often find their tribe in music! My son loves band! what with all the sensory issue possibilities and the sheer size of the band I had my doubts - now after junior high and HS I am so grateful! he will be marching with his favorite college band this Fall and he got a music scholarship! Do it!!!! if he's asking - so much the better!

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