Autism Breakthrough – Can Music Therapy Speed Up Learning in Autistic Children?

Autism music therapy has been the topic of great recent interest due to its surprising yet positive effects on autistic children. For autistic toddlers and young children between the ages of 3 to 6, music therapy seems to help connect the dots in terms of emotional and physical behavior and learning.

Abbey Monroe, age 4, is a shining example of what happens when music therapy is introduced to a child with autism.

Abbey’s mother Sarah Monroe, often sings to her and chants short rhythmic phrases to get Abbey to comply and play along while she moves throughout her day from one activity to the next; activities ranging from changing her clothes, to eating a meal, to taking a bath.

Autism Music Therapy at Work in the Classroom

Abbey, who previously lacked verbal skills due to severe autism, is now able to talk and communicate much more effectively after being enrolled in Crenshaw Elementary School where she gets special attention from a highly specialized staff of autism experts and educators. Abbey has been able to overcome many social and behavioral issues thanks to Mrs. Linda LeFante, a veteran autism specialist and strong advocate of music therapy.

“All children with autism respond to music, and Abbey’s no different. I believe you can teach your child basic life skills using music as a tool to help make things easier, both for you and your child,” Mrs. LeFante explains.

“Abbey, like all the other children in my classroom, need to learn the basics for living like changing her clothes, brushing her teeth, and adjusting to different social situations. And music makes the entire learning process much easier and more enjoyable.”

Mrs. LeFante’s confidence in music therapy is based on 14 years of teaching children with autism. Parents of children under Mrs. LeFante’s care attest that her methods are undeniably effective. There are over 60 children with autism enrolled at Crenshaw Elementary where Mrs. LeFante teaches. The children are divided into classrooms of 7 to 8 children with a special education assistant assigned to each child.

Although a huge support staff is on hand, the overwhelming success of the students at Crenshaw Elementary can mostly be attributed to Mrs. LeFante’s music education program which follows the core curriculum. This ensures that every student with autism gets what they need in terms of a complete education.

Music Therapy for Autistic Children – Approved by Parents and Professionals

Judy Morrow, mother of 5 year old Albert Morrow who is also a student at Crenshaw Elementary, recently shared her thoughts on the impact of music therapy, “My son Albert had the toughest time learning due to autism. But now he’s able to recite the alphabet. He also learned to say the names of his favorite animals. He’s even counting which totally caught me off guard. I’m thrilled at how quickly he’s learning. Linda LeFante is an absolute miracle worker.”

To shed further light on the topic, Mrs. LeFante responded by saying, “Music can be the anchor to help your child stay grounded while they learn. I never pressure my students. I never force anything on them. All of the children in my care just naturally gravitate towards music therapy when they witness me and other students enjoying the process. Furthermore, I believe music therapy belongs in the home as much as it does in school. I believe you can teach literally anything using music as a tool.”

The Future of Autism Music Therapy

While there is still much research ahead in the field of cognitive neurology (brain sciences) and the effects of music therapy on children with autism, there is substantial real-life data pouring in from parents and teachers alike in regards to the impact of music therapy in the classroom and at home; positive reports that music unquestionably helps children with autism learn much more effectively, and efficiently, while enjoying both the outcome, and the process.

Music Therapy: A Peaceful Revolution

You’ll be in trouble with the law if you play your music too loudly in Rochester, New
York. Anyone found violating local and state noise ordinances by means of overly
loud “boom boxes,” stereos, motorcycles, automobiles or loud partying will be

New York City has also begun to oppose the bombardment of noise. Its Department
of Environmental Protection has a Quality of Life Hotline. 70% of the calls received
concern noise. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has established a Council on the
Environment. There is a citywide group (with a somewhat unfortunate acronym)
called Friends Against Noisy New York. On April 25th, there were observances of
International Noise Awareness Day. The mayor also established Operation Silent
Night, a citywide quality of life initiative to combat loud and excessive noise in New
York City.

It’s not that the state of New York is less tolerant than the rest of us. It’s that
they’ve realized something a lot of communities don’t know yet.

We all know that we’re exposed to more excessive noise today than at any other
time in history. Modern life can seem like an ongoing struggle to rise above the din.
Home life fills our ears with barking dogs, air conditioning units, televisions, boom
boxes and the kitchen vent-a-hood. When we leave the house or office, we yell to
be heard over construction projects, car alarms, traffic and other people’s music.
The list goes on and on. The US Census Bureau has reported that noise is
Americans’ top complaint about their neighborhoods and their main reason for
wanting to move.

What New Yorkers have found and the rest of us need to know is that noise
pollution is more than just annoying; It can be dangerous. One Rochester police
officer explains that when blasting music in neighborhoods goes unchecked, it
indicates that respect is not required. “This type of environment is friendly to other,
more serious types of crimes,” he says. That’s why police officers and neighborhood
residents have decided to crack down on excessive noise in their community. Police
and concerned citizens have been walking the streets together, knocking on the
doors of noisy neighbors and warning them about possible fines and legal action.

Noise is not only a health issue for communities, but also for individuals. Research
has shown dramatic physiological effects from exposure to excessive noise. In
addition to its damage to the ears, Dr. Luther Terry, former U.S. Surgeon General
identifies a host of other negative health effects due to noise. A partial list includes
cardiovascular constriction, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, more
labored breathing, measurable changes in skin resistance and skeletal-muscle
tension, digestive system changes, glandular activity that alters the chemical
content of blood and urine, vestibular effects, balance sense effect and changes in
brain chemistry. It bears repeating that this is just a partial list. Terry details the
negative effect of noise on fetal development, as well.

The Surgeon General echoes the voices of many health professionals. Researchers
have found that after extended exposure to high noise such as aircraft flyovers or
workplace noise, blood pressure rises as much as 30%. Increasing the negative
impact is the fact that blood pressure stays at that elevated level for a significant
period after the exposure ends. So if you’re close enough to a landing plane that
your blood pressure rises, it stays up and affects your body long after the airplane
noise is gone.

You don’t have to live near an airport to be affected by traffic. Even noise that we
might consider moderate has its effect. A German study found that those living on
busy streets were 20% more likely to have a heart attack than those living on a quiet

Studies have also linked learning problems to noise. It affects the ability of children
to learn to speak, to read, and to acquire knowledge in schools. These effects have
been documented near airports, train tracks and major roadways. The inability to
hear and understand all that a teacher is saying can translate to poor grades and
could even lead to a higher dropout rate in schools.

Moreover, noise pollution has impact on the behavior of both children and adults.
One study looked at how passers-by responded to a person in need in the presence
of noise. While a noisy lawn mower roared nearby, a woman with a broken arm
dropped some books and tried to pick them up. No one stopped to help her. When
the lawnmower was turned off and the scene repeated, several people stopped to
help her retrieve her books.

With all that being said, it’s no wonder that Americans have more problems with
sleeping, concentrating and dealing with stress in our noise-polluted environment.
Fortunately, there is more to sound than the negative effects of noise. The opposite
of noise is music. The ability of music to repair and encourage health and harmony
is as powerful as noise’s ability to destroy them. So powerful, in fact, that there is an
entire field called music therapy.

The full benefits of music therapy are still being studied, but we know of quite a few
already. Studies in mental health, for example, have shown that music therapy is
effective in relieving anxiety and stress, promoting relaxation and treating
depression. Music therapy allows people with emotional problems to explore
feelings, make positive changes in mood, practice problem solving, and resolve
conflicts. It has been used successfully by mental health institutions during group
therapy sessions.

The healing effects of music therapy are not limited to mental health. They have
been observed in hospitalized patients with burns, heart disease, diabetes and
cancer. As a complement to rehabilitation care, music therapy seems to strengthen
communication and physical coordination skills, as it improves the physical and
mental functioning of those with neurological disabilities or developmental
disorders. Those with learning, speech and hearing problems may also find music
therapy helpful.

Music therapy reduces the need for medication during childbirth and complements
the use of anesthesia during surgery and dental work, especially when children
undergo medical and surgical procedures. It is useful in newborn care of premature
infants. Aside from these acute situations, music therapy helps ease chronic pain.

Music therapy can also improve the quality of life of terminally ill patients and
enhance the well-being of the elderly, including those suffering from Alzheimer’s
disease and other forms of dementia. It has been used to complement the treatment
of AIDS, stroke, Parkinson’s and cancer. At the same time, music therapy is useful in
the support of the families and caregivers of such patients.

Most of the reviews published on the subject have been published by the American
Music Therapy Association. The broad applications of this tool warrant more formal
reviews. We still don’t know just how many conditions could be helped by music
therapy. Still, changes are that you could enhance your mental and physical health
with music therapy.

If you consult a music therapist for a particular condition, the therapist will first talk
to you about your symptoms and needs. In addition, the therapist will assess your
emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities
and cognitive skills. Using this information, your therapist will design an appropriate
treatment plan that would probably include playing and listening to music,
analyzing lyrics, composing songs, improvising and/or using rhythmic movement.

During your regular sessions, the therapist may participate in these activities with
you or simply guide you. You may also be encouraged to talk about the images or
feelings that are evoked by the music. You and your therapist will select the music
used for your therapy according to your needs and tastes. You can choose any kind
of music, from classical or new age to jazz or rock. You do not need previous
musical experience nor any musical ability to benefit from music therapy.

Some music therapy is conducted in a group setting. You might perform music with
others who have the same condition as you, or you may just interact and relax with
others as music plays in the background. If you are in the hospital for surgery or to
give birth, your music therapy might simply entail listening to your favorite songs to
help you relax and reduce pain.

As you may have guessed by now, the presence of a professional is not always
required in music therapy, though you may need help in getting started. Westerners
are only beginning to use music as medicine, though it has long been used
successfully in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. To encourage you to create
your own music therapy sessions, I will share with you the basics of my own brand
of music therapy. Take what you like and leave the rest.

When I practice music therapy, especially for relaxation, the first thing I do is to find
a calming environment, where I won’t be disturbed or interrupted. Next, I light
incense or a scented candle, as I find that aromatherapy helps to calm my body.

Next, I choose the music, which becomes easier the more you learn about your
body’s response to different kinds of music. I then sit on the floor, in an upright
position with my legs crossed. I breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling very slowly
through my nose.

As the music plays, I listen intently to the instruments as if the players were right
there in the room playing to me. Often I position myself directly in front of the
speaker, so I can feel the vibrations as well as hear the music being played. Some
people use headphones. This is fine, but I recommend you feel the sound coming
into your body, and not just into your head.

Visualize the sound waves coming from the speakers and going through you. Not
only should you position yourself physically to catch the sound energy in your body,
but you should also focus your mind. Focus on where you want the healing
vibrations to go. Listen as you visualize the sound waves beaming through your
body and replenishing your cells, tissues, and internal organs.

As you practice music therapy you will develop the method that works best for you.
Once you know how your body responds to certain instruments, timbres, and
musical styles, you can design sessions in the sequence you find most beneficial to

Ideally, you practice music therapy for at least 30 minutes to an hour per day,
although even a 20-minute daily session would yield positive results. It can take 10
minutes just for your mind to unwind, so I recommend 30-40 minute sessions.

Those are the basics. As you can gather from all of the above, music therapy can be
as involved or as simple as the situation warrants. The main thing is just to get
started. In this world of noise pollution, practicing music therapy may well be the
way to start your own peaceful revolution!


American Academy of Audiology (Consumer guides)

World Council on Hearing Health (In the news)

Friends Against Noisy New York (2005 Newsletter)
National Campaign for Hearing Health

ADHD Natural Treatment – Music Therapy

Most children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder go through traditional cognitive and behavioral therapy so they can readjust to the social world around them. However, behavioral therapy is not the only program that can rehabilitate children with behavioral disorders. Consider giving your child music therapy, a creative and popular approach that uses the therapeutic power of music to teach children appropriate behavior, mental skills, and avenues for expression.

It seems rather unconventional, but music therapy is a legitimate health profession backed up by scientific research and practice. Since it was first developed by Michigan State University in 1944, music therapy has helped a host of individuals overcome conditions like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD. Children with ADHD and similar disorders have been able to harness their creative energies and skills to make positive changes in their behavior and overcome their symptoms. Music therapy can help set these changes because it uses a very effective medium – music. Music is a recognizable, non-threatening language that can establish a familiar environment conducive to learning, expression, and change. Children hardly expect to enter a doctor’s office to find out that they’ll be playing with music. The medium easily captures and sustains their natural curiosity, and they will start working on improving themselves without being aware of it.

Aside from making children more open and receptive to therapy, the approach itself can rehabilitate the brain. Both hemispheres of the brain work together to process auditory stimuli, and the mental activity involved facilitates cognitive functioning and corrects speech or language deficits. Depending on the program, music therapy can even re-train your child’s auditory receptive processes. The rhythmic component of music will also give the child a structure that organizes movement and participation, which will improve focus, impulse control, and group cohesion.

One of the misgivings parents have about music therapy is that they fear a child can only benefit from it if he or she is musically inclined. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Most children who succeeded with the help of a music therapist cannot play a single note on the piano or carry a tune. Aside from the benefits outlined above, this type of therapy gives children an avenue for creative expression when they have difficulty expressing themselves through verbal language. As for ADHD children who do have hidden musical abilities, music therapy can bring these out and encourage these children to develop their talents. But hidden talent for music or no, every child can benefit from music therapy.

Music therapy for ADHD can be done in one-on-one sessions with a therapist, or in small groups. In both instances, a music therapist will use song, instruments, and other music activities to engage a child in a structured, systematic manner. The structure of the program is important to cultivating the desired behaviors, responses, and goals. While this is happening, the program gives your child a familiar environment that encourages positive interpersonal reaction and expression. Consider using music therapy to help your child overcome ADHD naturally.

How to Find Music on YouTube

YouTube is a terrific site that offers both mainstream professional recording artists as well as up-and-coming singers and songwriters. However, since there are literally millions of YouTube videos finding the one you are looking for can be a tiresome task. There is a simple solution and by following the instructions below you will be sure to find the YouTube Video you’re looking for.

First head over to the music section at YouTube where the current top music videos can be found. This page displays the current top YouTube music videos including popular mainstream bands and recording artists. Depending on the genre of music you are looking for you can select from pop, country, rock, classical and others. Once in the particular section you will see a large listing of songs listed in order of popularity.

The second way to finding the YouTube music you are looking for is by using the built-in search. By typing the keywords you are looking for (artist name, track name, etc.) you will be able to find both songs by the artist as well as related videos. This is perhaps the easiest way to find specific songs you are looking for but by doing such a specific song you might pass up and miss a song you might really like.

If you find a song that you really like take a look at the related videos. Chances are there is a song or video by another artist that you may really like. The related videos that are displayed often are very similar to the original in artistic style, melody or genre.