Music and Children with Special Needs

Playing and learning music is shown to boost creativity, and it can have practical therapy applications for those students who need an extra push, either socially or academically. Check out these ways music can help children with special needs.

music therapy

It Improves Attention and Cognitive Functioning

MusicTherapy.org took a look at how music therapy can aid students with autism. The evidence they found showed that music boosts attention and cognitive functioning, among many other benefits.

Part of this could be attributed to the fact that music helps reduce stress, but Psych Central suggests that “music’s form and structure can bring order and security to disabled and distressed children.” In turn, this could lead to greater attention spans and quicker thinking.

It Allows for Self-Expression

An issue present in many kids with special needs is that they have trouble expressing themselves and therefore are easily frustrated. In their research, MusicTherapy.org also points out that music provides children with a successful and safe form of self-experience.

Music is a type of language understood by everyone—even if the notes and scales don’t make sense. Understanding a child who has trouble communicating—whether he simply doesn’t know how to put his feelings into words or has trouble with language—can be as simple as putting a pair of drum sticks in his hands and listening to the type of music he creates. In turn, this practice can help calm children down since they have a chance to actually show how they feel.

It’s Tied to Language Development

As PBS.org points out, music aids in language development. The Children’s Music Workshop reinforces this idea, saying “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.”

This may be due in part to the fact that children who learn music are simultaneously learning to understand patterns as if music itself was a language. This better helps them understand the patterns in verbal and written language.

Children who work together in a group musical setting also have the benefit of growing as part of a community. This can help in developing their social skills, in which they better understand tone of voice and body language.

It Boosts Self-Esteem

As PBS.org tells us, musical lessons can help boost self-esteem. This is especially true when children work toward a goal, such as mastering a piece of music, or learning a new instrument, as this instills a sense of pride in them.

It can also boost self-esteem through its nature of self-expression, which can help children understand themselves better. As part of a musical group, it also builds a sense of confidence in the community the child is a part of.

Tips for Using Music Therapy With Special Needs Kids

Ready to start using music therapy with a special needs kid? Before you get started, consider these tips:

  1. Let the child choose his or her instrument. What good is music to self-expression if a child can’t choose the medium in which to express herself? Offer several choices on instruments and musical genre, but don’t try to force one that she doesn’t enjoy.
  2. Encourage music in a way that is easy at first, but continue to establish goals as the child becomes more accustomed to music.
  3. If the child has a physical disability, consult with an occupational therapist about instruments the child can play or ways to adapt instruments to fit his or her needs.

Music can prove to be beneficial in so many ways for people of all ages, but it can be especially useful for providing therapy to kids with special needs. What first steps will you take to get your child involved in music?