Is Music the Best Medicine? – Insights from Indian Researchers

Music is a powerful medium that has proved to provide amazing multi-sensory experiences to children on the spectrum. Music can aid in encouraging self expression, as well as exploring a completely new side of oneself. There are different music programs mapped out to accommodate the different goals and needs of the child.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

The main goal of MT for children on the ASD spectrum is to improve social and communication skills using interactive musical activities. Music Therapy can be seen gaining popularity around different parts of the world, including India, as a type of a complementary therapy.

There has been extensive research on the effectiveness of music therapy which has been a contributing factor in its increasing popularity.

Research findings have suggested marked improvements and changes in children’s behavioral profiles, social and communication skills, maintaining interactions with others and functional brain connectivity.

Along with these benefits, MT provides a supportive environment where parents and children can bond in a healthy way. This safe space helps children connect and relate to their care givers in a wholesome way.

An interesting research finding for the effectiveness of MT comes from India itself by Bharathi et al. The researchers chose fifty two children from ages 6–12 years on the ASD spectrum from the state of Tamil Nadu. They then divided the children in two groups – active MT and passive MT. The active group was involved in singing, dancing, and playing with the musical instruments while listening to the music, whereas the passive group received MT without any interaction and listened to music alone.

It was found that MT is an effective intervention in improving social skills of autistic children with steady effects. MT helped in developing a form of communication for these children which led to an improvement in their ability to understand, respond, and maintain their interaction with their peers. It was also found that these results were better for the active MT group as compared to the passive MT group.

 

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