Learning about emotions can be very difficult for children diagnosed with autism. Studies show that people diagnosed with autism are typically impaired in parts of the brain that assist in recognition of emotions and body language. Further studies are being conducted to find the most successful learning environments for children diagnosed with autism.

As I was going through music therapy journals, I came across a study done by June Katagiri, MM, MT-BC, called The Effect of Background Music and Song Texts on the Emotional Understanding of Children with AutismThis study was conducted to see what learning strategies would be most effective. During this study, twelve school children in Japan were taught four emotions, (happiness, sadness, anger, and fear) under different conditions. The four conditions included, a group with no purposeful teaching about emotions, a group with purposeful teaching only using verbal instructions, a group with verbal instructions and background music, and a group taught the emotions through singing songs. These 30-minute sessions were conducted twice a week, over a period of four weeks.

The results of this study showed that children with autism responded positively to music, therefore treatment conditions that used background music and song texts were significantly more effective. Participants were able to perceive emotions in the music, and the song texts conveyed information about the emotions that may have improved emotional understanding.

Similarly to what we have seen in our work, this article showed that using music to teach understanding of emotions can be significantly more successful than verbal instruction alone. Our new children’s album will include a song written to increase emotional understanding called, “Feelings Always Change.” Donate now on indiegogo to pre-order your copy!

Kate Harris, MT-BC/L