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Music & Movement Therapy for Autism

By Doris Steadman, MEd, MSW

Autism now affects as many as 1 in 68 children and adults.1 Those diagnosed may have a wide range of developmental delays, as well as difficulties with communication, motor and language skills, and certain repetitive behaviors that limit their social interactions.2

There are many theories on which therapies best help affected children become more integrated into society, and through numerous studies, music is proving to be a very effective one.

Now considered evidence-based for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), music therapy is the use of music interventions to address non-music therapeutic goals.4 A 2004 study from the Journal of Music Therapy found that music therapy used with children and adolescents with ASD increased appropriate social behaviors and decreased inappropriate behaviors. And the good news is that most children will work at it because it is fun, adding to the long-term changes in social behavior and cognitive ability with prolonged use of the therapy.5

Music is motivating and engaging and may be used as a natural reinforcer as children in studies appear to respond more frequently to the therapist’s requests while music is played.4 When paired with motion therapy and repetitive training, results showed increased attention to tasks, vocalizations, gestures and vocabulary comprehension; engagement with others; and enhanced body awareness and coordination.

Fortunately, there is a new community program being developed locally by Bob and Nancy Horn which will offer ASD and other special needs children the opportunity to experience dance and music therapy. Currently in the planning and development stage, the non-profit called All Things Are Possible will offer specialized classes with musical instruments, ballroom dancing, and vocal instruction.

They are working with local medical professionals to develop programs and have pediatricians, neurologists, child psychologists, speech therapists and special education teachers on their advisory board.

Jerome L. Lipin, M.D., FAAP, who also holds a fellowship in developmental disorders is on board and plans to conduct a controlled study to further support the non-profit’s work. Throughout his career, Dr. Lipin, who is now retired, worked closely with developmentally disabled kids and feels strongly that both music and movement can make a significant difference. “Studies are well documented and I have seen the work that the Horns are doing in their dance classes,” says Dr. Lipin. “We look forward to documenting the success of music and dance together to help current and future generations.”

Targeting a location at Westfield Mall, Palm Desert, All Things Are Possible is currently seeking volunteers and the donation of musical instruments. “We have master dance instructors, and music, vocal and band instructors who will work with the children alongside certified therapists,” says Horn, who is very excited to get the program started. “Our goal is to give each child the self-esteem they need to live a full life while helping parents cope with their children’s disabilities.”

For further information or to see how you can help, contact Bob Horn at (760) 413.3593 or e-mail bobhorn.atap@gmail.com.

References: 1) CDC Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network,2010.; 2) Lisa Jo Rody, About Health, autism.about.com; 3) Whipple, J (2004). Music in intervention for children and adolescents with autism: A meta-analysis. Journal of Music Therapy, 42 (2), 90-106.; 4) Autism Speaks Blog, Infographic: Music Therapy and Autism. 5) Autism Science Foundation Blog, Music Therapy May Help Children with Autism.

5 Responses to “Music & Movement Therapy for Autism”

  1. George Rodriguez says:

    Hello Bob: Bless you for what you and others are doing. We have a grandson with autism, and
    any and all activities are a plus to him. I’m a senior taking violin lessons and I have an extra violin and music books to donate. We will be in Palm Springs for a week in July, and would like to know where to bring the violin. See you there! George and Lynne

    • Lauren Del Sarto, Publisher says:

      Thank you, George!

      I will forward your message to Bob and make sure he gets back to you.
      Thank you for reading Desert Health!

      Lauren Del Sarto

  2. Amanda Neira, MMT, MT-BC says:

    Great Article! I love to see that music therapy is getting recognized! I am actually a Board Certified Music Therapist and have started a private practice called Coachella Valley Music Therapy. It is amazing to see them learn and grow using music.

  3. Vera says:

    I use RAV Vast music therapy all the time it helps me focus concentrate majorly when I use the therapy. everyday I listen to music and my thoughts are clear. RAV Vast are my music therapy https://ravvast.com/catalog/drums/ravvast

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