Music therapy can play an important complementary role within a CP treatment plan. Playing an instrument improves flexibility and dexterity, which in turn helps refine gross and fine motor skills. Dancing helps exercise muscles. The music also helps lower the heart rate. But the benefits don’t end there.
Research has shown that music therapy helps with alertness because the beat of the music helps a child build connections within the brain that help them concentrate and focus. This helps the child respond to external stimuli quickly and appropriately. It can also ease muscle tension which is something that can significantly benefit a young person who has Cerebral Palsy.
The rhythmic nature of music also helps children with Cerebral Palsy organize their gait – they can time their movements to the beat of the music. This, in turn, allows therapy to take place in a way that is fun for a child.
The same concept also rings true when a child is learning to speak. The child can speak or sing, in tandem with the music, which helps them develop control of the vocal muscles that are so often a difficulty for children with Cerebral Palsy. Repetitive speech – the kind of speech that takes place in song or specialized exercise – can improve a child’s ability to participate in a conversation.
Because verbal difficulties tend to construct communication barriers that can erode a child’s self-esteem, any therapy that can help a child move past his or her vocal issues is likely to be welcomed by a parent.
Cognitively, music therapy can be used to help a child recall conversation just as he or she would remember song lyrics.
Psychologically, the upbeat music can create a sense of optimism which has both physical and emotional benefits. Music therapy may not play a crucial role in a child’s overall medical treatment plan, but it can make a difference in how a child perceives therapy – and how he or she perceives his or her situation.
A child with Cerebral Palsy typically faces many challenges; a significant amount of time is spent in therapy. It’s not often that a therapy can be a source of enjoyment in and of itself.