Music Therapy for Autism

When learning about music therapy in class, I was interested in the types of music therapy that were used. I did some research and discovered a type of music therapy called Orff-Shulwerk. This type of approach is used mainly on children with disabilities or developmental delays, usually autism. This type of approach seemed interesting to me because my younger cousin has autism and she loves music, so I was wondering how they used music as a substitute to medication. I was also interested in this type of method because I was wondering how types of music therapy are directed more for children and not for adults.

The Orff Shulwerk approach aims to improve the learning ability of children and makes children become more invested in education. Focus is usually very difficult for young children with autism, so having a child become invested on one task for a long time is a great feat. This type of music therapy utilizes music to improve this focus. In class we discussed how music therapy also involves a relationship element, which I would feel like would make this a more difficult experience for autistic children, but from the research it actually makes it a meaningful group experience. This method is also used with children dealing with emotions, such as grief, and used to provide emotional healing and build social relationships.

This type of music therapy was used on a 3-year-old child and actually increased social participation and eye contact between her and her mother. They wanted to help the child anticipate the actions of the mother, so they synchronized the mother’s actions with the therapist playing the harp. The child’s developmental skills were monitored throughout the sessions. When the data was analyzed, they noticed a change in the social interactions between mother and daughter. This is type of research seems very interesting and it is amazing how just some simple music can make dramatical behavioral changes in children.


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