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Behavioral Therapy: Effects of Music in Autism Treatment

We at Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE, have conducted various researches and looked into copious studies to help support autism therapy in Dubai. And, out of the methods considered for autims treatment, one that has had been noted as signifcantly effective is behavioural therapy. With the distinction of being scientifically approved, this regimen uses a technique that entails measurement and implementation of specific teaching procedures.

For children struggling with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other forms of learning disabilities, music therapy has shown much promise. For centuries, societies have intentionally made use and acknowledged the powerful effects of music. The concept of music therapy is also found in the writings of Aristotle and Plato, where both have addressed the notable impact of this behavioural therapy.

What is Music Therapy?

The American Music Therapy Association has defined music therapy as a clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. As suc, music just might be the therapy needed to influence an autistic individual’s behaviour.

This overall affects the brain and other bodily structures in ways that are observable, identifiable, measurable, and predictable. In our research on autism diagnoses, it was found that music therapy is the only sensory experience that can activate all areas of the brain at the same time.

Ignacio Estrada has said that, if a child cannot learn the neurotypical way, then teaching them in a way they do learn might just change the game for the future of autism education.

Case Study

Kim, Wigram and Gold (2008) measured the effects of improvisational behavioral therapy through musical therapy on joint attention behaviours in children with ASD. Ten boys, ages 3 to 5, participated in the study. Five of the ten participants were non-verbal and the other five had varying degrees of language skills. The study was conducted in Kim’s private practice clinic in Seoul, Korea.

The Pervasive Developmental Disorder Behavior Inventory-C (PDDBI) and the Early Social Communication Scales (ESCS) were used throughout the sessions to measure 19 responsiveness and non-verbal communication skills. The PDDBI was completed by both the therapists and the mothers of the participants. The results brought forward by the doctors displayed that both groups showed a higher degree of joint attention behaviours after the music therapy sessions than they did after the play sessions.

The result was divided when taken from the mothers—one group saw larger increases after music therapy sessions, while the other reported the same degree of change after both sessions. The participants maintained eye contact for longer periods, and also had longer turn-taking times during the music therapy sessions.

The limitation of this study, however, would be the small sample size.

One study found that children who were moderately intellectually disabled benefited after just 8 weeks of music therapy. A test group of 5 to 10 year olds went through a 30-minute music therapy session twice a week during the study. According to their autism diagnoses, vocalization, imitation of another person and turn-taking skills, all showed a marked improvement.

Aristotle and Plato’s views

Aristotle believed music to have a cathartic effect, providing a sense of relief from any negative emotions. As such, creating an epitome of an ideal environment can help to achieve the maximum mental and physical well-being of a patient. Through Plato’s works, we can see that music is assumed to be able to bypass the very core of the “self”- causing a great impact on the character of the individual.

“Because more than anything, rhythm and harmony find their way into the innermost soul and take the strongest hold on it.” (Plato)

Advantages of Music Therapy

  • Music and music therapy increase engagement and communication skills in children with ASD.
  • It results in an increased independence, and improved eye contact and joint attention, allowing autistic children to learn and connect with the world around them.
  • With existing methods, music therapy can enhance the classroom experience for all participants.

Music Therapy as Behavioural Therapy

This method affects the strength of connections between brain areas, and the changes made are related to behavioural improvements. This is exciting because it points to why music intervention might just be an effective behavioural therapy programme for autism treatment, which can in turn benefit autism therapy in Dubai, among others.

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