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!