Pro Music Therapy

“Does music therapy actually work for children with autism?”: Evidence-Based Practice, Research, and More.

The majority of children I see for music therapy have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Because of the diagnosis, children with ASD may require additional therapeutic support to strengthen their communication, coordination, cognition, and social-emotional skills. People often ask me, “does music therapy actually work for children with autism?” To which I explain that music therapy is an evidence-based treatment option to improve essential developmental skills in children with ASD. Many of their parents are busy, and they have to pay out-of-pocket for a variety of scheduled services each day. They would not spend their time, money, or energy on anything less than successful. For these reasons and many more, they choose music therapy treatment for their children.

Music therapy for children with ASD is supported by research. The American Music Therapy Association offers an official fact sheet that outlines the literature supporting music therapy as an evidence-based treatment option for children with ASD. Here is the link to access the fact sheet: https://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/bib_autism10.pdf

Not only does research show that music therapy improves non-musical goals in children with ASD, but parents can also see their children’s progress over time. For example, one child I worked with for 3 years progressed from not demonstrating any communication to using consistent non-verbal communication and some verbal communication attempts. While the parents also tried other forms of therapy, I was the only consistent provider during that time, because the parents observed the constant progress their child made in and out of the music therapy sessions. This child is an example, and not an isolated case.

Music therapists throughout the world are making strides to improve the lives of children with autism by providing evidence-based treatment. Music therapy works with children who have ASD to improve communication, social-emotional skills, coordination, and cognition. Additionally, new research is published frequently strengthening the work that music therapists do for children with ASD.

In my experience, communication is always a key concern for parents. For more specific information on language development and treatment through music therapy, check out the book: Developmental Speech-Language Training Through Music for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Hayoung A. Lim.