One of my most frequently asked questions: WHY does music work so well with autism? And my short answer is typically something like: The inherent structure in music; the rhythm, timbre, structure, ability to evoke emotions, and the predictability all tie together to draw in the interest and confidence of a child. You can see the anticipation as they get so excited that they bounce and twirl their fingers as they await their part in a song.

But what kind of music works best?

The short answer is it depends on where your child lies on the spectrum.

The Long Answer

Amy Kalas, a brilliant music therapist in Florida just shared her Master’s thesis about this very subject:

“I decided to focus on autism and joint attention (one of the earliest manifestations and most characteristic features of the social deficits in ASD). The purpose of my study was to see what kind of music (simple music or complex music) would be most effective in eliciting joint attention in children with ASD. Thirty children with ASD participated in the study. Fifteen of the participants were diagnosed with severe ASD and 15 were diagnosed with mild/moderate ASD. Each participant took part in six, 10-minute individual music conditions (3 simple and 3 complex) over a 3-week period. Each condition was designed to elicit responses to joint attention…”

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Thanks for sharing, Amy. You are brilliant!