Lately, we have been discussing how music helps children learn. Music is a wonderful way to connect emotion to the senses. It is also a great way for children with verbal communication difficulties to express themselves. Below are some ways that children on the autism spectrum can benefit from music.
- Improves their focus and attention: one particular child I worked with had a hard time sitting still in their chair. She would constantly wiggle around and touch everything in her range. When I placed the ukulele in her lap, she was given something to direct her focus towards. She was unable to truly understand musical notes, but enjoyed feeling the vibrations the ukulele made. It didn’t take long before she began recognizing the low and high pitched strings. As we worked on the ukulele, she was quickly able to repeat patterns of simple songs. The structure gave her the focus she needed to make it through the entire song in one sitting. Over a three-month period, her focus and attention began being seen beyond music class.
- Improves their social integration: a young man in one of my music classes was interested in playing in a band. He had a hard time holding eye contact, though, as well as communicating with others. Over time, as we play together, he learned the importance of the social skills and, because of his dream, overcame his social issues.
- Improves fine motor skills: many autistic children have problems with fine motor skills. One young lady I was teaching was interested in learning the guitar. We started with easy songs with a simple note and gradually moved towards ones that were harder. She began increasing her confidence as we learned more advanced proper fingering techniques. Once it clicked with her, her fine motor skills improved quickly.
- Builds self-esteem and confidence: music is a wonderful tool to help build self-esteem. People from a wide variety of abilities can enjoy music. In the stories above, not only do these students improve areas of their life, but because they were able to overcome parts of their autism, they grew as people and gained better self-esteem and confidence.
One of my favorite parts of being a music teacher is seeing children when they truly enjoy music and it clicks with them. It is even more rewarding when children with learning disabilities and other challenges finally get it. The successes they enjoy in music class translate into the rest of their world. Helping any child learn to better themselves is the reason I love teaching.