Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as an umbrella, or spectrum, of neurological disabilities which include conditions such as autism, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), childhood disintegrative disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome. (Autism Speaks 2014)
People diagnosed with any of these neurological disabilities have symptoms such as speech impediment, lack of sense awareness, and experience constricted behavioral tendencies involving repetitive organization and repression or inability to effectively express or communicate emotions. It is still unclear what causes ASD, nor is there a cure; however symptoms can be treated through the use of speech and behavioral therapies, such of which includes music therapy. Music operates on similar levels of aural frequencies as regular speech, and occurs in adjacent areas of the brain, and thus language education through music is definitely possible, and can be an effective tactic in providing alternate learning devices for individuals who perceive things differently from the rest of us. (Lim 2014) Because people with ASD function on different neurological levels, (due to a wide range of developmental brain damage and imbalances in neurotransmitters) they do require different ways of learning, and since each individual is unique in regards to capabilities and skill sets determined by the location and severity of neurological damage, therapy usually consists of flexible and personalized tactics that adapt to each individuals specific needs and interests. Music not only is a useful tool in aiding the development of speech, but it also creates a channel that connects affected individuals to the outside world, allowing them to speak out and express themselves verbally and emotionally. Simply imagining a world where your brain functioned on a different frequency than everyone else’s is not only unfortunate due to the impaired signal transference, but it is also a lonely and closed off life. What music therapy does is help people with ASD gain a voice and send and receive messages that allow for mutual understanding between them and everyone else. Music is also a fun way to engage in learning, a catchy jingle going a long way in remembering rules and facts, unlike blandly reciting information in a boring monotone.
Goodman, Jennifer. “Hope For Autism through Music Therapy.” YouTube. Youtube, 20 Jan. 2010. Web. 11 April 2014.
We’ve all learned something from music, whether it be the alphabet or not to jump on the bed, and so its not too far of a stretch to consider that some other people with unique needs require the use of music to learn. The rhythm, beat, tones and tunes of music create a metronome-like pattern that serves as a guideline that keeps things, such as the words to a song, predictable and reliable enough for individuals with ASD to be comfortable with, and gives them to confidence to speak out and learn. Music is overall important in some way to everybody, but especially to those who may rely on it to express themselves and gain a voice.
Lim, Hayoung. Developemental Speech-Language Training through Musicfor Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012. Print.