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Music Therapy for People with Disabilities

  • Published: 2013-07-09 (Revised/Updated 2017-05-17) : Author: Thomas C.Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information regarding music therapy as an effective educational and therapeutic tool for children and adults with disabilities.
Music Therapy

Music Therapy is defined as a clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapy aims to facilitate positive changes in behavior and emotional well-being and is essentially a social activity involving communication, listening and sharing. Referrals to music therapy services may be made by other health care professionals such as physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

Main Document

"An increasing amount of scientific evidence indicates that rhythm stimulates and organizes a person's muscle responses and helps people with neuromuscular disorders"

Music therapy is an effective educational and therapeutic tool for both children and adults with forms of disabilities. The strategies involved with music therapy may effect changes in skill areas that are important for people with a variety of forms of disabilities such as learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism and many others. As a person with disabilities, I have found music to be invaluable in relation to the forms of disabilities I experience.

From a therapeutic perspective, music has a number of benefits for people with disabilities. It is an important learning tool of course. A portion of the benefits of music comes from the fact that repetition within music may be more enjoyable than without it. Music also provides significant memorization assistance. Maybe the most important thing for some people is the fact that they can participate in music even if they experience difficulties in other areas and music therapists are trained to help them accomplish this goal. Successful participation in music can find a person with a disability feeling motivated to pursue additional efforts.

Music is also an effective way to stimulate and focus a person's attention and might be particularly significant for some people who may not respond to other types of interventions. At times, music is used as a stimulating introduction. At other times, an entire therapeutic intervention might be structured using music to maintain a person's attention. Changes in music may provide other signals or alerts that important interactions or information are coming. Some kinds of music might also provide a calming effect when a person's anxiety interferes with their cognitive focus.

Music therapy is an effective tool to use for stimulating and motivating a person's speech. It provides a path for nonverbal communication as well. Music therapy is a valuable tool for people who are learning to use an augmentative or alternative system of communication.

In some songs, harmony and melody cue a person's speech by setting up a type of auditory anticipation, yet delaying the resolution until a person provides the final lyric. In other singing activities, rhythm may help a person to slow down their rate of speech and become more intelligible. The way songs are stored and the way rhythm stimulates a person's motor function appears to help people with apraxia of speech. Changing melody lines can help to improve a person's range and the inflection of their voice.

An increasing amount of scientific evidence indicates that rhythm stimulates and organizes a person's muscle responses and helps people with neuromuscular disorders - one of the ways that music therapy strategies can help to improve a person's physical skills. When a specific note played on an electronic device or an instrument is crucial to the completion of a particular song, anyone - to include people with severe forms of physical disabilities, can become the focus of a successful musical experience. The opportunity to participate in music may motivate a person to attempt physical movements that require some additional effort. Music may also be very relaxing, on the other hand, and help to alter a person's perception of pain.

As a person who experiences pain related to osteoarthritis, music has become a part of my relaxation therapy. Listening to certain types of music helps me to relax and also helps to ease the physical pain I experience through relaxation to music. After learning that I can use music as a means of relaxation, it has become a part of my routine for responding to osteoarthritis pain.

Music therapy can help people work on their social skills too.

It helps in a couple of ways - by providing a familiar and consistent support for practicing, and by encouraging cooperation in the completion of a satisfying musical product such as a musical piece accompanied by others who each play a beat for example where each note is important. Music also provides people with developmental disabilities with opportunities to interact and cooperate with those who do not experience these forms of disabilities. Music has the ability to equalize and enrich the lives of those who become involved with it.

From an emotional perspective, music provides people with many opportunities to express and experience a number of emotions. The desire to participate in music, as well as to produce something musical, may become motivations to control emotional outbursts. Live music may be changed from moment to moment to reflect, or maybe alter, the moods of the people who are listening and participating. Successful participation with music that a great many people with disabilities have the ability to achieve has a positive effect on self-esteem too.

From a simple perspective, music has always been something that I can enjoy with others because I enjoy a number of types of music. It is a social equalizer in many ways and has led to friendships, social participation, and much more. Somehow, when music becomes involved, the presence of disabilities seem to fade or disappear entirely. Where pain is concerned, music is one of the best things in the world.

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1 : Social Mobile Gaming Boosts Rehabilitation for Patients with Physical Disabilities : Imperial College London.
2 : Physical Therapy: Definition & General Overview : Thomas C. Weiss.
3 : Avoiding Re-Injury - Life After Physical Therapy : MCPR, LLC.
4 : Proton Therapy: Overview of Treatment & Side Effects : Thomas C. Weiss.
5 : Better Speech Therapy for Children with Down syndrome : University of Vermont.
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