10 Ways Playing Music Is Therapeutic For Special Needs Children

Where words fail, music speaks.” - Hans Christian Anderson

Piano-Wizard---Boy-and-Girl-PhotoThe quote above speaks to the power that music has in the lives of many. Dozens of new studies on the developing brain show dramatic lifelong breakthroughs and improvements in language, math, spatial skills, memory and more by learning to play an instrument.

Caring for a special needs child can be a challenge for parents, teachers, and caretakers. But the rewards can far outweigh those challenges. We are always looking for ways to enrich our children's lives, which in return enriches our own. Music can help accomplish this and lead to a truly rewarding experience for the entire family.

While an active approach as in playing an instrument can provide the most benefits, passively just listening to music can help as well.

You may have tried to find a music teacher for your son or daughter only to find that most music schools refuse to teach those with certain special needs, such as autism, Down Syndrome and vision impairments. This is sad, and naturally this leaves you frustrated and your child feeling left out.

But if that's the case, there are still many solutions out there.

By definition, music therapy is an interpersonal process in which a qualified therapist uses music and all of its facets - physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual - to help clients to improve or maintain their health. In some instances, the client's needs are addressed directly through music; in others they are addressed through the relationships that develop between the client and therapist.

Private piano lessons or software learning methods for example are not by definition music therapy, but the benefits ARE therapeutic. Therefore, we can consider this a form of personal music therapy. Either way, if your special needs child isn't showing positive effects by engaging in a music learning program, you may wish to contact a professional. The benefits derived from either choose can be life-changing and no child should be left behind!

 

Music Lights Up the Brain

music-lights-up-the-brain

  • The right hemisphere of the brain is activated when you hear melodies with a variety of pitch and timbre. It also “lights up” when people play music by ear.
  • The Left hemisphere of the brain “Lights Up” when you learn to read music, understand key signature and notation, and follow the sequence of notes. Significantly, the brain is activated in the same area that is involved in analytical and mathematical thinking. So you can simultaneously stimulate the right and left hemispheres of the brain by playing an instrument or by singing.

That's all pretty cool science, but how does this “lighting up” benefit our children?

The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy lies in these 10 examples.

1. Behavior

We've all experienced bouts of bad behavior with our children – kicking, screaming, etc. Music is mood-enhancing, and children with disabilities often benefit greatly from upbeat, rhythmic music that they can sing or play an instrument with.
Music helps stimulate senses, focus attention, and redirect self-stimulating behaviors toward socially appropriate behavior. In addition, forms of music therapy show shown increased compliance by children.

2. The Calming Ability of Music

girl-backAnxiety is one of the biggest challenges facing individuals on the autism spectrum. When children with special needs listen to classical music, it provides a positive and relaxing experience. Remarkably, classical music can also reduce stress and ease frustrations. Furthermore, it can reduce muscle tension and slow down the heart rate. When these changes occur, the mind is more open to learning and also to communicating with others.

One study at the Baltimore St Agnes Health Care by Raymond Bahr, MD showed that when doctors played classical music for their heart patients, it had the same impact as a 10 mg dose of Valium!

The implications of this study for those with special needs are clear. When children with autism, cerebral palsy, ADD, ADHD, and mental retardation are able to relax and calm down, dramatic changes in their behavior become possible.

Music is tremendously helpful with stress-relief and anxiety reduction, and can be used with relaxation techniques.

3. Self Expression

Music promotes self-expression and emotional response. Children need opportunities for self-expression and creativeness. They require a “release” for their energies and inner thoughts. It is better that these necessary releases be obtained through music than other, often harmful, means. Possibilities for self-expression and creativeness through the playing of an instrument are endless.

4. Emotional Response

Playing instruments can stimulate senses and provide emotional fulfillment. It can also be used in a small structured group setting to build interpersonal relationships. For example, songs can be divided into separate parts that necessitate the participation of each individual to successfully bring the song to completion. Many children will feel more comfortable opening up about their feelings when they are exposed to music.

5. Social Interaction

A study by 2009 Kim, Wigram, & Gold found that children with autism showed more emotional expression and social engagement during music therapy sessions than in play sessions without music. These children also responded to the therapist’s requests more frequently during music therapy than in play sessions without music.

Individuals with autism show equal or superior abilities in pitch processing, labeling of emotions in music, and musical preference when compared to typically developing peers.

Additionally, a skilled therapist can use music with children to increase their social interaction and improve social skills. Passing and sharing instruments, music and movement games, gathering around a central instrument, learning to listen and singing of greetings are just a few of the ways music therapy sessions can increase interaction.

6. Communication and Language Skills

Music improves two-way communication: Music can help build social skills and encourage peer interaction and conversation.

Children who are musically trained are better at observing pitch changes in speech and have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.

Learning and mastering a musical instrument improves the way the brain breaks down and understands human language, making music students more apt to pick up a second language.

7. I.Q.

Music lessons may not only teach your kid how to carry a tune—they may also boost his or her I.Q. Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education.

Many autistic children have already been shown to be highly intelligent, while other mentally challenged children struggle with low I.Q.
A study explored the impact of a music enrichment program on evaluative test scores in mentally retarded children. Twenty children were given the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and evaluated for the Trainable Mentally Retarded (TMR) Performance Profile, both pretest and post-test. Between the two tests, 10 of the children were assigned to attend 36 forty-minute music sessions, 2 each week for 18 weeks. The other 10 children had little music involvement in the classroom, if any. The study revealed a significant increase in test scores for basic knowledge, communication, and social behavior in both groups.

8. Memory

Students of all ages—that includes adults— generally find that music helps them focus more clearly on the task at hand and puts them in a better mood for learning g. Music learning is a creative output. Children learn to memorize songs, or parts of songs in a manner that keeps the brain stimulated, and through repetition, thus improving memory skills.

A recent study by found that compared to age and IQ-matched typically developing children, participants with autism demonstrated elevated pitch discrimination ability as well as superior long-term memory for melody.

The children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrated elevated pitch discrimination ability in the single-tone and melodic context as well as superior long-term memory for melody. Pitch memory correlated positively with scores on measures of nonverbal fluid reasoning ability.

9. Self-confidence / Self-esteem

Children with special needs often run into difficulty with self-esteem when they begin to realize that they are different from their peers. Sometimes this comes in the form of bullying whereby the child is told he or she essentially does not belong to the group and is not wanted. Sometimes this comes from the child him or herself identifying how different he or she is, and the child starts to isolate him or herself from the group out of fear of not belonging. Both of these scenarios create the feeling of unworthiness and thus hinder self-esteem.

Music is a wonderful way to address the many needs of children because music is nonjudgmental. There is no right or wrong, it just is what it is. Listening to different types of music nurtures self-esteem and encourages creativity, self-confidence, and curiosity.

10 Motor Skills

Many children with special needs have challenges with their fine motor skills. Therefore, it is important to incorporate fine motor skills activities for special needs children in their daily routine. Playing an instrument helps teach a child muscle coordination, rhythm, cause and effect, and improves fine and gross motor skills.

Conclusions

In our golden years, we may not be able to jog around the park, but we can still sing or play an instrument. Music is a gift you can give your child that will not only help now, but will last a lifetime.
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What They’re Saying

“Your research on the positive effects of music are astounding and your progress with Piano Wizard is proof positive of your good work.”

Bonnie M.
With a background in training and education plus two children I’ve long believed in the philosophy “meet them where they are and help them expand from there. ” That’s exactly what Piano Wizard does.
Anne Newellon
My children have been playing Piano Wizard for 10 years now. I have built this into their homeschooling schedule. Megan, now 13 can play 6 instruments. I believe that the early start was crucial.
Peter Jennings - Meganize4life.comAuthorEmpower your child with an education for life
While many computer programs teach music, Piano Wizard turns anything from Bach to Billy Joel into a video game in which you’ll be guiding a rocket ship with a color-coated keyboard, while picking out a tune and learning chord progressions.
ABC News
The genius of Piano Wizard is that it leverages video game technology for the purpose of teaching music.
Anne Newellon

“…an easier way to get your child from Chopsticks to Chopin.  It was nice to find a computer video game that actually teaches something significant.”

New York Daily News
“First and foremost, I feel that learning to play piano needs to be an enjoyable experience otherwise there’s little motivation to continue. Piano Wizard has made it enjoyable for us.”
Bill B.

“The phenomenal Piano Wizard bridges the gap between music, notes, and colors…”

MacLife
A viable alternative to private music lessons.
iPhoneAppReviews.com

“Piano Wizard takes away the drudgery of old-time piano lessons bringing them up-to-date in our every changing, exciting world of musical media.”

Top Ten Reviews
Piano Wizard Academy is an effective course that produces measurable results.
Timberdoodle

“Since children with Asperger’s (or most children under the autism umbrella) are typically visual learners, these kiddos often respond well to learning via a video gaming format. That makes it fun for you too!”

Maggie (customer)

Autism Approved- Autism Hope AllianceCan Piano Wizard Academy be the solution you've been looking for? Here are some of the things our customers have said:

As a music educator to students with special needs, I have been using the Piano Wizard Academy program with many of my students since October 2008 . . .Every student that has experienced this wonderful program has enjoyed it and many have demonstrated a talent in using it. Many of these talented students have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and possess a wide range of abilities. Jennifer

I wanted to let you know that so far, my son loves it. . . . The graphics are entertaining and keep him interested. . . Working with children with Autism, they sometimes need to be prompted more than one time to start a task. My son did not need prompting when he was introduced to this game. At 6 years old, he is a pretty advanced gamer, being able to pick up how to play any game immediately. He enjoys learning games, but usually only if they have a favorite movie character attached. I feel the music is what kept him interested, as well as feeling as if he was playing a game. Michelle

Good Morning!!! I took the Piano Wizard to the Special Education Dept. of a private school where my friend is the Director. She has many students of various ages on the autism spectrum. Piano Wizard Academy has been a HUGE hit!! One little boy who is 6, and very hard to occupy, has found his smile. The only problem so far………NO ONE wants to stop playing! … Not one student became frustrated during play. The game is very self satisfying to the child, and stimulating as well. After 1-2 tries, everyone was familiar with the color scheme and we were able to adjust the tempo to meet the need of the child. Many of the kids understood that they were playing the note in the music. Level 1 was a great success, and we will be moving on to Level 2 today. Tina

Autism Approved- Autism Hope AllianceCan Piano Wizard Academy be the solution you've been looking for? Here are some of the things our customers have said:

Resources

http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/07/can-music-improve-behavior/
http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/07/21/idINIndia-50286920100721
http://montcalmschool.org/blog/benefits-music-therapy/ Benefits of Music Therapy for Individuals with Autism
http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Classical-Music-Benefits-Children-With-Learning-Disabilities&id=6536979
http://www.coastmusictherapy.com/how-music-helps/autism-research/
http://www.musictimeonline.com/Resources/Resources/Parent Resources/BenefitsofMusic.html
http://apdhailey.blogspot.com/2011/11/nurturing-self-esteem-in-child-with.html
http://www.tunedintolearning.com/autism-music-research-pitch-and-melodic-memory/
Wingert, M. L. (1972). Effects of a music enrichment program in the education of the mentally retarded. Journal of Music Therapy. 9, 1. 13-22.

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