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Music and Your Mentality: Helping Children with Special Needs

How does music therapy help children with special needs? In today's post for our Music and Your Mentality Series, we will explore various services music provides for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Rett syndrome, Williams syndrome, and Down syndrome.

Music is engaging, structured, and accessible. Therapy for children and teens with special needs works best when it captures their attention and taps into their interests. Using music as therapy is a creative and enjoyable way to help special learners gain skills and make progress in developmental and educational goal areas. In addition, music is organized, with its rhythmic patterns, mathematical elements, and repetition. This makes it an ideal tool to present new language concepts, social scripts, speech phrases, or academic skills.

Music embraces people of all ages and can bridge social understanding between special learners and their typically developing peers. Music therapy and autism research supports a link between musical processing strengths and autism and the use of music as a therapeutic intervention. Check out more about the link between music therapy and autism in this blog post.

Rett syndrome is a brain disorder affecting development in childhood, resulting in severe movement and communication problems following apparently normal development for the first six months of life. Rett syndrome may cause loss of speech and purposeful hand use, occurrence of repetitive hand movements, abnormal walking, abnormal breathing, and slowing in the rate of head growth. However, studies substantiate that music increases responsiveness, hand use, communication, choice making, activation of augmentative devices, and self-regulation.

According the Williams Syndrome Association, Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. Music, rhythm, and musical instruments significantly interest and motivate children with Williams syndrome.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Those with Down syndrome may have low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. However, research supports the ability of music to improve memory, communication, and social skills.

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