Music Therapy and Autism

Belltree Music Therapists work with people with varying degrees of autism in a wide range of settings, including special and mainstream schools, residential and day centres for adults, community spaces and private homes. Because music therapy does not rely on verbal forms of communication, it is uniquely placed to help people with autism, offering a balance between structure and freedom which makes sense for each individual. It can help reduce anxiety and social isolation, alleviate frustration and support both verbal and non-verbal communication. Involvement in music making can both stimulate and relax a person leading to very positive changes.

Music therapy with children can:

• help a child to listen
• encourage spontaneous play
• stir a desire to communicate
• strengthen muscles and improve co-ordination

• help the child to build relationships• improve concentration
• provide a means of self expression
• stimulate language development through songs and turn taking
• excite imagination and creativity

Potential benefits

Every course of music therapy is different, and there are no set results; each individual is different.
However, some of the ways that people on the autistic spectrum have been found to benefit from music include:


• development of meaningful gestures, sounds and language
• diversion from repetitive behaviour
• increasing tolerance of sounds

Social development:

• motivation to interact
• tolerance of change and unpredictability
• enhancing flexibility and responsiveness
• providing meaningful shared experiences
• Emotional development:
• improving sense of self and self esteem
• developing expressive abilities
• sharing of emotional experience

Cognitive development:

• developing awareness, concentration, memory, creativity
• increasing conscious control of actions and handling of objects

Early Intervention:

• Enhancing development at an early stage of young children on autistic spectrum, or who have difficulties associated with ASD
• Supporting families experiencing isolation, stress or frustration

Specific benefits with adults with ASD:

• Exploration of emotions and feelings
• Richer life experience and emotional wellbeing