By Jamie E. Gilliam, MTI
What is Autism?
Usually diagnosed in early childhood, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a wide range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges (1). ASD appears in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is nearly 4.5 times more common in males. The most recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD (2). ASD does not necessarily manifest physically, but someone with autism may interact, behave, and learn in a different way than most people. Because it is a ‘spectrum’ disorder, the cognitive abilities of someone with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged.
ASD Treatment Planning
As soon as a child is diagnosed with ASD, a treatment program should be developed. Early interventions are most effective in enhancing a child’s development. Typical goal areas for someone with autism are behavioral, social, and communicative, but each treatment plan should be tailored to address the specific needs of the individual. Depending on the areas of need, an interdisciplinary treatment team may include (but is not limited to) behavioral therapy, dietary therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and music therapy.
ASD and Music Therapy
Music therapy has shown to be effective with those with ASD, as people of all backgrounds and abilities can have successful experiences in music. The accessibility of music often elicits positive responses in individuals with ASD (3). A music therapy session provides structure, predictability, and consistency, all aspects that support the learning style of someone with ASD. Music therapy interventions focus on social, sensorimotor, emotional, and cognitive functioning, and reinforce goals addressed in an individual’s treatment plan (4). Music therapy services for young children with ASD are very effective for improving communication, interpersonal skills, personal responsibility, and play (5). Music therapy is administered through one-on-one sessions, or group sessions, which facilitate appropriate social interaction and communication. A music therapist works alongside the treatment team and documents the individual’s progress towards achieving their goals, while making recommendations for generalization. Music therapy helps motivate the individual, their family, and the treatment team by providing opportunities for success and empowering the patient to transfer functional skills learned in therapy to their lives.
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(1) Autism Spectrum Disorder. 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html
(2) Christensen, D.L., Baio J., Braun K.V., et al. (2016). Prevalence and characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder among children aged 8 years - Autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2012. MMWR Surveillance Summaries 65(3),1–23. http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6503a1
(3) Kern, P. (2014). Music therapy: Personalized interventions for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In V. Hu (Ed.) Frontiers in autism research: New horizons for diagnosis and treatment (pp. 607-625). Singapore: World Scientific
(4) ASD and MT. 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/Fact_Sheet_ASD_and_MT_10-21-15.pdf
(5) Whipple, J. (2012). Music Therapy as an effective treatment with Autism Spectrum Disorders in early childhood: A meta-analysis. In P. Kern & M. Humpal (Eds.), Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders: Developing potential in young children and their families (pp. 59-76). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Allison G. Hingley, MM, MT-BC
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