autism, music therapy, music therapy for autism, special needs

What KIND of music works best for autism?

child with headphones

One of my most frequently asked questions: WHY does music work so well with autism? And my short answer is typically something like: The inherent structure in music; the rhythm, timbre, structure, ability to evoke emotions, and the predictability all tie together to draw in the interest and confidence of a child. You can see the anticipation as they get so excited that they bounce and twirl their fingers as they await their part in a song.

But what kind of music works best? A brilliant music therapist in Florida just shared her Master’s thesis. Amy Kalas says:

“I decided to focus on autism and joint attention (one of the earliest manifestations & most characteristics features of the social deficits in ASD). The purpose of my study was to see what kind of music (simple music or complex music) would be most effective in eliciting joint attention in children with ASD. Thirty children with ASD participated in the study. Fifteen of the participants were diagnosed with severe ASD and 15 were diagnosed with mild/moderate ASD. Each participant took part in six, 10-minute individual music conditions (3 simple & 3 complex) over a 3-week period. Each condition was designed to elicit responses to joint attention…”

Although this is in Music Therapy Speak, it’s still completely readable for parents. Because the short answer is: it depends on where your child lies on the spectrum.

Start with her blog.

Read the published journal article

Or check out her thesis.

Thanks for sharing, Amy. You are brilliant!

adaptive music lessons, autism, music therapy, music therapy for autism, special needs

My Favorite Apps #1

Many of the children with whom I work are drawn to technology. I’ve started incorporating videos into some of my adaptive piano lessons and we use apps within our sessions. I’ve heard some really great conversations about children and ‘screen time’ that discuss the benefits from using technology with moderation. That is the school of thought in which I’m nestled. So here is the first of a series of six apps that incorporate music and embrace creativity.

I actually got this list while attending a concurrent session at our recent regional music therapy conference. The session was presented by Dr. Petra Kern, the owner of Music Therapy Consulting,  the editor of an awesome online magazine, Imagine, and one of the editors of Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Developing Potential in Young Children and their Families. Dr. Kern went through over 100 apps and came up with her top six choices.

Today’s video walks you through Monkey Drum.  Check it out!