Music Therapy for Autism: How Effective Is It?

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Music therapy has been used as a treatment for autism. How effective is it? The benefits of music therapy are manifold, but can any one form be more helpful than the other?

Music therapy is a type of intervention that has been shown to be effective in improving the quality of life for individuals with autism. However, there are also some cons associated with it.


Music therapy is a supplemental treatment option for autistic people that may be used in combination with more established treatments.

Using a number of strategies, this therapy may help a kid with autism repair brain connections. Dancing, singing, and playing instruments may all help you develop your motor skills and emotional control. Music therapy groups and listening to particular genres of music may help people improve their communication and social skills.

When music therapy is used as part of a child’s treatment early in life, the changes in brain function and behavior might last a lifetime.

What Is Music Therapy and How Does It Work?

Music therapy is a kind of psychological and behavioral treatment that focuses on the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs of people of all ages, from toddlers to seniors.

Music therapists are therapists, which means they must be licensed and regulated by their respective states. The majority of music therapists have a master’s degree, while others have a bachelor’s degree and subsequently seek board certification in this field. Music therapists can provide a safe atmosphere for their clients with this degree of professional certification in the form of evidence-based therapy.

Music therapists design individualized therapy regimens for each client, but they also practice in groups on a regular basis.

The following are some of the things that music therapy may help with:

  • Making music and singing songs.
  • Dancing to a certain kind of music.
  • Listening to a certain kind of music.
  • Learning to play an instrument is a great way to pass the time.
  • Playing an instrument in a group setting.
  • Lyrics are being written.
  • Composing music is what I do.

The music therapist may pick one or two of these activities as part of the overall treatment plan, or they may employ a combination of these techniques over the course of numerous therapy sessions.

The purpose of music therapy is to help clients enhance particular abilities, first in a therapeutic setting. The therapist then urges the client to use these abilities in other areas of life.

How Does Music Therapy Help Autistic People?

Better communication is one of the key goals of music therapy. This treatment tries to help those who have problems expressing themselves verbally by providing them with different ways to express themselves. This suggests that music therapy should be effective for persons with autism, since communication difficulties are one of the most common issues among autistic people.

Finally, music therapy should improve the client’s quality of life through improving communication skills. This aids in the improvement of their interpersonal interactions, including those with their therapists, family members, and peers.

Music therapy is often used in conjunction with a variety of other approaches. Music therapy may be used in conjunction with a behavior treatment such as applied behavior analysis for persons with autism (ABA). Music therapy will not be able to replace a main treatment such as ABA, but it may be used to supplement the whole treatment plan.

According to some study, music therapy provides a wide range of possible advantages, including:

  • Keeping and retaining attention, which may help with anxiety and cognition.
  • Reducing self-stimulatory or negative reactions.
  • Positive actions increase engagement in socializing.
  • Providing a means for nonverbal people to express themselves.
  • Assisting with the development of certain linguistic abilities.
  • Listening and taking turns are two ways to improve interpersonal reciprocity in shared play.
  • Identifying and expressing emotions in suitable ways.
  • Integrating several senses, such as hearing, touch, and sight, is a challenge for some persons with autism.
  • Gross and fine motor abilities are improved by the use of coordinated, rhythmic sounds that elicit certain bodily reactions, such as dancing.
  • Encouragement of new task efforts within a more flexible framework.

Music Therapy Methodologies

Music therapy, like other kinds of behavioral treatment such as ABA therapy, should only be performed by a qualified, registered music therapist.

The therapist must grasp how music, musical instruments, and certain methods of engaging with music, such as singing or dancing, affect emotions, behaviors, and even physical responses in the brain. The therapist may then construct a treatment plan based on known criteria to help an autistic child’s brain generate positive, new connections.

The following are the most popular music therapy techniques for children with autism:

  • Music therapy using a behavioral approach. This method looks at the overt changes in a child’s behavior in reaction to music that occur as a result of particular practices and distinct forms of music engagement.
  • Music therapy using a sensory integration method. This method helps children with autism who are extremely sensitive to stimuli, under-responsive to stimuli, or exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors in controlling their bodily responses.

There are hundreds more schools of music therapy in addition to these three techniques. Working with your child’s doctor, neurologist, psychologist, or behavior therapist to acquire a referral to a music therapist who is familiar with your child’s unique autism symptoms may be beneficial.

Music Therapy Is Effective as an Early Intervention for Children With Autism, According to Research

Music therapy, like many other types of treatment for persons with autism, tends to function best when started early. Children on the autism spectrum are usually diagnosed before they become four years old.

Doctors and parents may start developing an overall treatment plan as soon as a diagnosis is made. While ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy may make up the majority of the treatment plan, additional therapies such as music therapy may help to fill out the picture.

According to parents, music therapy helps children with autism “rewire” their brains, allowing them to lessen maladaptive behaviors and enhance connections with family and friends. One research indicated that 8 to 12 weeks of music intervention improved intrinsic brain connections in school-aged children with autism spectrum disorders.

The research included 51 youngsters ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old who had never undergone music therapy previously. An fMRI was used to investigate the children’s brain connections, which may evaluate different precise regions of brain responses. While the children showed beneficial behavioral improvements, notably as observed by their parents, there were enhanced connections between brain regions responsible for movement abilities and sound processing.

However, links between the visual and auditory processing centers were weaker. This looked to be linked to gains in social communication, thus it might have entailed changes in how the brain processes several inputs at once.

Music therapy might also help with sensory integration. In a poll of 434 music therapists, 32.3 percent said they prefer to utilize sensory integration techniques to treat children with autism, and 43.4 percent of the 434 respondents said this approach was highly successful; 38.3 percent said it was very effective.

Music Therapy Costs

The cost of music therapy varies depending on the location where your kid gets treatment. It will be paid in any administrative school expenditures if it is part of their special education curriculum. If you hire a separate music therapist, you should expect to spend between $70 and $150 per hour, plus fees for screening and treatment plan design.

This therapy is frequently not covered by health insurance. You may be able to acquire some coverage while paying part of the fees out of pocket if you can combine music therapy with other forms of evidence-based treatment, such as ABA therapy. Certain insurance companies are starting to pay the expenses of some creative treatments, such as music therapy, so check with your provider to see if you qualify.

Your Child’s Music Therapy Options

Music therapy seems to be effective for young children with autism when used in conjunction with other evidence-based medical therapies. It might help your kid handle sensory difficulties, motor skills, and communication if you include it in their therapy plan.

Furthermore, many youngsters like music therapy for its own sake. They may improve musical talent while also learning a variety of other skills that are very crucial for autistic youngsters to learn.


Music therapy for autism has been shown to be an effective treatment for non-verbal children with autism. The article discusses the effectiveness of music therapy as well as a few other therapies that may help autistic children. Reference: music therapy for non-verbal autism.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is music therapy Effective with autism?

A: Music therapy is effective with autistic people who are able to express themselves through music.

What is the effectiveness of music therapy?

A: Music therapy can help improve the quality of life for people with a variety of conditions, such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. Studies have shown that when music is used to engage patients in conversation about their condition and motivate them to participate in treatment, they are more likely to manage symptoms and live better lives.

What are the effects of music on autism?

A: The effects of music on autism are not well understood. However, research has shown that some people who suffer from autism may have an increased ability to understand and respond to the rhythm in music which could be helpful for their development.

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