Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects significant social, communication, and behavior. ASD begin in childhood and tent to persist into adolescence and adulthood. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:

  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people.
  • Restricted interested and repetitive behaviors.
  • Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in social work and other areas of life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, 1 in 160 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) worldwide.

Evidence-based psychosocial interventions, such as behavioral treatment and parent skills training programs can reduce difficulties in communication and social behavior with positive impact on well-being and quality of life for persons with ASD and their caregivers.

About 1 in 54 children has been identified with ASD in the United States, according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. It is 4.5 times more common among boys than girls.

ASD prevalence appears to be increasing globally over the past 50 years as per the epidemiological studies.

Statistic data shows that it is an alarming call to develop a strategy to help and motivate the ASD children, tailor meticulous course work for ASD children’s education, and enhance their developmental ability.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Music Therapy

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based music intervention within a therapeutic relationship address to behavioral, social, psychological, communicative, physical, sensory-motor, and cognitive functioning. Music therapist provides the treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Music therapy improves the communication style of people who cannot express their feelings in words.

Music influence thoughts feelings and behaviors. Many studies show that music have a significant impact on psychological dimensions. It was found that music form and structure can bring order and security to mentally challenge children; it motivates to communicate and improve the quality of life. Music can reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, decrease anxiety, blood pressure, heart, and respiratory rate. As per the study, classical music is a great tool to alleviate sleeping problems.

As per the AMTA, 2008 publication, clinical outcomes demonstrated that music therapy mainly focuses on

  • Communication
  • Cognition
  • Behaviors (problem, repetitive, stereotypic)
  • Social Skills and interaction
  • Emotional regulation

Recently, neurological study found that music changes the activity of brain. Especially, it was observed that music therapy improved prefrontal, supplementary motor, and temporal brain regions which are relevant to higher-order cognitive, socio-emotional, and motor functions.

According to the study, music therapy may help children with ASD to improve their skills in primary outcomes area, involving in social interaction, verbal communication, initiating behavior, social-emotional reciprocity, and increasing social adaptation skills, which promoting the quality of parent-child relation.

As per the study published in Brain Research Bulletin, music making with others is a multi-modal activity that demonstrates to engage brain regions that largely overlap with the human mirror neuron system (MNS). Moreover, many children with autism thoroughly enjoy participating in music activities. This kind of activities may enhance their ability to focus and interact with others, thereby fostering the development of communication and social skills.

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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.)

AMTA (2008). Autism Spectrum Disorders: Music Therapy Research and Evidenced Based Practice Support. Silver Spring, MD: AMTA.

Bharathi, G., Venugopal, A. & Vellingiri, B. (2019). Music therapy as a therapeutic tool in improving the social skills of autistic children. Egypt J Neurol Psychiatry Neurosurg (55), 44.

Harmat, L., Takács, J., & Bódizs, R. (2008). Music improves sleep quality in students. Journal of advanced nursing, 62(3), 327–335.

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). NIMH Strategic Plan for Research (NIH Publication No. 02-2650)

Wan, C., Demaine, K., Zipsea, L., Norton, A., & Schlaug, G. (2010). From music making to speaking: Engaging the mirror neuron system in autism. Brain Research Bulletin 82, 161–168.

World Health Organization. (2019). Autism Spectrum Disorders