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Have you heard of music therapy? If you have a child with autism, you may have. Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program 1)American Music Therapy Association. In regards to children with autism, music therapy has been known to encourage social interactions, improve behavior and communication and reduce anxiety 2)Autism Science Foundation. However, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers have found that there was no significant improvement in the symptoms presented for the children with autism who receive music therapy 3)CNN. Yet, researchers believe that music therapy can work for nonverbal children with autism because music is the main focus and not actual words.
This study has met strong criticism, especially from Kenneth Aigen, interim program director and associate professor of music therapy at NYU Steinhardt 4)CNN. He states that we should not look at the goal of music therapy to make individuals “less autistic”5)CNN. This brings up a good point as we are still fighting the stigma of individuals with disabilities.
Even though there may be some criticisms of music therapy for people with autism, I have personally seen improvements in my students that received it. Music therapy programs typically draw from methods used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is widely used in the treatment of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Music therapists are board certified and will conduct an assessment to determine the course of therapy and interventions needed to work towards the goals of your child. Music therapy also uses songs, rhymes and reinforcers to help improve social interactions; encourages speech imitation and communication; and is used to increase motivation for communicating.
Music Therapy and Your Child’s IEP
If you are looking to add music therapy to your child’s IEP, keep in mind that it can only be added if a music therapy assessment has determined it is a requirement for your child in their educational programming. Music therapists, as other related service providers, should attend your child’s IEP meeting and give their input as well as provide goals and objectives in the IEP. If you are in a private setting, you are responsible for the cost of therapy and sessions can take place at your child’s home or therapy clinic.
If you are looking for an additional intervention to help improve communication and social interactions of your child, music therapy can prove beneficial. It is definitely something you might want to research.
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