October 2012
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The Benefits of Music Therapy in Developmental Delay

Music can provide therapeutic and educational benefits in both children and adults with developmental delay, both from listening to music and being involved in playing it. Research has been carried out into the positive impact that music therapy can have on both physical and mental health. Studies also suggest that music therapy can aid the development of skills in those with developmental delay, including autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s syndrome. Here we look at five skill areas where music therapy can make a helpful contribution, either when used as a standalone therapy or when incorporated into other activities.


Skills in cognition


Music is a very effective way of stimulating someone’s attention, helping them to focus on a task; this is particularly helpful if other types of intervention have not helped within this skill area in the past. It might be the case that music is used merely to introduce an activity, or it could be used through the whole course of another therapy to keep someone focused on the activity they are being encouraged to participate in; music can also act as a relaxation aid, removing the anxiety, which stopped them from contributing previously in tasks. A range of tools are also provided thanks to music. For instance, a change in music can act as a signal that something important is about to happen, such as they are to listen out for an instruction; alternatively music might be used to aid memory, where it can help someone to associate a section of sound with something else, which they will hopefully be able to recall when they hear the same section of music again. Another beauty of music is that many people can successfully participate in it, even if they have struggled with other activities; this provides a sense of achievement and may provide someone with the confidence to try more challenging activities again.


Skills in communication


Music not only encourages speech, but also non-verbal communication and can be a helpful activity to be involved in for anyone who is learning to use an alternative system for communication. The rhythm of music can also be a useful tool to help control the rate at which someone talks, making their speech clearer. Movements in the muscles involved with speech, encouraged by rhythm, can also help those people with apraxia of speech who struggle to say what they want to.  Changing melodies can additionally be beneficial, as they can broaden the range and inflection of someone’s voice.


Social skills


Participation in music group sessions provides an opportunity to interact and co-operate with others; not just others who have developmental difficulties, as music breaks down barriers allowing anyone to play together.


Emotional skills


Providing many opportunities to express themselves and to display a range of emotions, music might also help to control emotional outbursts at other times. Participants can learn to adjust the music that they play depending on their mood and that of others who they might be playing along with. Musical success can also have a very positive impact on self-esteem, which can infiltrate into many other areas of their life.


Motor skills


There is now plenty of evidence from scientific studies that rhythm helps to stimulate and order muscle responses, which is particularly helpful for anyone with a neuromuscular disorder which often precludes comparing health insurance. Where pain is a problem, which interfere with someone’s movements, music can influence the perception of pain in a positive way. Achieving the physical movements required to take part in playing a musical instrument may also spur someone on to tackle more effortful movements involved in other activities.


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