“My son never makes eye contact. It’s hard to tell if he is listening to me.”
“My daughter needs help with her social skills. Sometimes I don’t think she realizes I’m in the room.”“He has trouble initiating play with others. If he is forced into it, he has a great time, but he has no idea how to start it.”
These comments are just an example of what I’ve heard from parents in their contact e-mails. My inbox has been flooded with e-mail like these, that all end with one common question:
How can music therapy help?
You may remember my How Music Therapy Works series, and the post about individuals on the Autism Spectrum . I mentioned there that music is social, but I want to dig in to that answer today.
Music Mimics Speech. While your child may not initially respond to you calling their name, barring any medical issues preventing hearing, they will most likely respond in some way to music being played. Eliciting this response and then utilizing it to build further social skills is one of the first duties in social skills development.
Participating in music requires awareness outside of ourselves. Try to play a steady beat. You can clap it or play it on a hand drum. Now, have another person try to play that steady beat with you. Pretty easy, right? Now have them play it with you in a sound protected room while unable to see you. To complete that task successfully, there is a minimal requirement of auditory attention. To have optimal success, eye contact with the other musician or instrument becomes necessary as well.
Music provides a safe setting in which to learn new skills. Lyrics can be written about turn taking that children will remember. Skills can be practiced in the music through turn taking while playing, only having music play when certain skills are observed, and a number of other interventions.
As with any developmental area, the manner in which these skills are addressed is individualized based on the person with whom the music therapist is working.
What are some of the ways you see music helping to enhance social skills? Share in the comments!