Music and Autism

Music has been an essential aspect of human life for centuries, and its importance is still recognized today. Research has shown that music can have a positive impact on individuals with developmental disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My daughter who’s currently 8 loves when we get instruments out, regardless of what we play. She smiles from ear to ear as soon as the music starts! 🙂

ASD is a complex developmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication skills, and restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Music therapy is an evidence-based intervention that uses music to address these deficits and improve the quality of life for autistic individuals.

I first learned about music therapy when I stumbled upon a booth at a fair at Union Station in St. Louis, I was shocked I had never heard of it and immediately hooked.

Music Therapy and the Auditory System

The auditory system is one of the areas most affected by ASD, with many individuals experiencing sensory overload or difficulty processing sounds. This can make communication and social interaction challenging, leading to feelings of isolation and frustration.

Music therapy can be a powerful tool in addressing these issues. Music has a predictable structure and rhythm, which can help individuals with ASD organize their auditory system and improve their ability to process sounds.

Music therapy can also be used to develop social skills and promote social communication in autistic children. Studies have shown that music intervention can increase social interaction and communication skills, leading to improved social and emotional functioning. This is particularly relevant for young children with ASD, who may struggle with nonverbal communication and have limited opportunities to engage in social activities. Music therapy can provide a structured and motivating environment for children to practice these skills.

Music Therapy and Social Communication

In addition to social communication, music therapy has also been shown to have positive effects on brain connectivity and functioning. Neuroscience research has demonstrated that music activates multiple brain regions involved in language, social cognition, and motor skills. This suggests that music therapy may be beneficial in addressing the various deficits associated with ASD, including language ability, motor skills, and social cognition.

Early intervention is critical for individuals with ASD, and music therapy can play an important role in supporting development from a young age. Research has shown that music therapy can improve developmental outcomes in young children with ASD, including improved communication skills and social functioning. This highlights the importance of incorporating music therapy into early intervention programs for children with ASD.

Types of Music Therapy

Music therapy can take many forms, including singing, playing musical instruments, and improvisational music therapy. Improvisational music therapy involves using musical stimuli to promote nonverbal communication and social interaction, and has shown promise in promoting social and emotional functioning in adolescents and young adults with ASD.

Benefits and Challenges of Music Therapy

The benefits of music therapy are not limited to the individual with ASD – caregivers and family members can also benefit from engaging in musical activities with their loved ones. Music therapy can provide a positive and enjoyable experience for families, improving their relationships and overall quality of life. The use of music in the home can also help to promote continued development and growth outside of therapy sessions.

One study published in the Journal of Music Therapy found that music therapy can have significant positive effects on the mental health and wellbeing of caregivers of individuals with ASD. Caregivers reported reduced stress and increased feelings of empowerment and connectedness following participation in music therapy sessions.

Despite the numerous benefits of music therapy for individuals with ASD, there are still challenges to be addressed. One of the challenges is labeling – many individuals with ASD are often labeled as non-musical or unmusical, leading to the assumption that they may not benefit from music therapy. This perception is inaccurate, as musical ability and engagement are not limited by ASD. Music therapy can be adapted to meet the needs and preferences of each individual, regardless of their level of musical skill.

Another challenge is access to music therapy services, particularly in rural or low-income areas. Efforts are being made to address this issue, with some programs offering teletherapy services to increase access to music therapy for individuals with ASD and their families.


In conclusion, music therapy is a valuable intervention for individuals with ASD and can have a positive impact on social communication, brain connectivity, and quality of life. Music therapy can be used in education environments and at home with parents and siblings to promote creating a comfortable living environment.

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder in Children

Parenting a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD) can be a unique and challenging experience. SPD is a neurological condition in which the brain has difficulty processing and responding to information received through the senses. This can result in a wide range of symptoms and behaviors, including sensitivity to certain textures or sounds, difficulty with coordination and balance, and overstimulation or withdrawal in response to sensory input.

Understanding SPD requires a deeper understanding of how the brain processes sensory information. Typically, the brain receives sensory information and organizes it into meaningful patterns. In individuals with SPD, this process is disrupted, resulting in an inability to properly process sensory information.

Parenting Challenges with Sensory Processing Disorder

One of the biggest challenges for parents of children with SPD is recognizing the symptoms of the disorder. SPD can often be mistaken for other conditions, such as ADHD or autism, making it difficult for parents to get an accurate diagnosis. Additionally, SPD can present differently in each individual, making it important to work with a qualified professional to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Sensory Processing Disorder Treatment

Treatment for SPD typically involves a combination of occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, and behavioral therapy. Occupational therapy can help children develop skills to better navigate the challenges of everyday life, such as dressing, eating, and playing. Sensory integration therapy focuses on exposing children to sensory stimuli in a controlled environment, helping them to gradually learn how to process sensory information. Behavioral therapy can help children learn coping strategies and develop skills to better manage their responses to sensory input.

Treatment Trends for Sensory Processing Disorder

As awareness of SPD continues to grow, there are several trends and predictions for the future of treating the disorder. One trend is the development of new technology to aid in diagnosis and treatment. For example, wearable devices that monitor physiological responses to sensory input can help therapists develop more personalized treatment plans. Additionally, virtual reality technology can provide a controlled environment for sensory integration therapy, making it more accessible for children in remote or underserved areas.

Another trend is the integration of mindfulness and other holistic therapies into treatment plans. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help children better regulate their responses to sensory input and develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms.


Parenting a child with SPD can be challenging, but with the right diagnosis, treatment, and support, children with SPD can lead fulfilling and successful lives. By understanding the unique challenges of SPD and working closely with qualified professionals, parents can help their children thrive and reach their full potential.