How Music Can Help Autistic Children Improve Their Social and Psychomotor Skills



Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the way people communicate and interact with others. It can also affect their motor skills, such as coordination, balance, and movement. Children with autism often face challenges in developing these skills, which can affect their quality of life and learning.


However, there is a tool that can help them overcome these difficulties: music. Music is a universal language that can stimulate the brain, emotions, and senses. It can also enhance the social and psychomotor skills of children with autism, according to a research paper by Francisco Javier Blanco Cárdenas, a student of music at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC).


The Research Paper


The paper, titled “El uso de la música como herramienta para la estimulación de la comunicación social y la psicomotricidad de niños autistas de grado 1 residentes en Lima Metropolitana” (The usage of music as a tool for the stimulation of social communication and psychomotor skills of grade 1 autistic children residing in metropolitan Lima), was published in 2023 in the UPC repository.


The paper aims to highlight the importance of music as a stimulation tool for children with grade 1 autism, which is the mildest form of the disorder. The paper reviews the literature on the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder, the main methods of intervention using music, and the effects of music on autistic children. It also proposes a design of a musical stimulation tool based on a qualitative methodology that involves documentary review and participant observation.


The Main Findings


The paper summarizes the main findings of previous studies on the topic, such as:

  • Music can activate different areas of the brain, such as the auditory, motor, emotional, and cognitive regions, which can improve the neural connections and plasticity of autistic children.
  • Music can foster the social communication skills of autistic children, such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, turn-taking, and verbalization.
  • Music can enhance the psychomotor skills of autistic children, such as body awareness, spatial orientation, rhythm, coordination, and balance.
  • Music can also have positive effects on the emotional and behavioral aspects of autistic children, such as reducing anxiety, increasing motivation, and promoting self-esteem and creativity.


The Proposed Tool


The paper proposes a musical stimulation tool that consists of a set of activities that use music and its elements, such as sound, melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics, to stimulate the social and psychomotor skills of autistic children. The tool is designed for children between 6 and 12 years old, who are diagnosed with grade 1 autism and live in metropolitan Lima.


The tool is divided into four phases:

  • Phase 1: Assessment. This phase involves collecting information about the children’s profile, preferences, needs, and goals, as well as their musical skills and interests.
  • Phase 2: Planning. This phase involves designing the musical activities according to the children’s characteristics and objectives, as well as selecting the appropriate musical materials and instruments.
  • Phase 3: Implementation. This phase involves conducting the musical activities with the children, using different techniques and strategies, such as imitation, repetition, variation, improvisation, and composition.
  • Phase 4: Evaluation. This phase involves measuring the progress and outcomes of the musical activities, using qualitative and quantitative methods, such as observation, feedback, and tests.


The Conclusion


The paper concludes that music is a valuable tool for the stimulation of social and psychomotor skills of children with grade 1 autism, as it can provide them with multiple benefits and opportunities for learning and development. The paper also suggests that the proposed musical stimulation tool can be a useful resource for educators, therapists, parents, and caregivers who work with autistic children, as it can help them to design and implement musical interventions that are tailored to their needs and interests.



How long and how often are the musical activities conducted?


The musical activities are conducted once a week, for a duration of 45 minutes each session. The total number of sessions depends on the progress and goals of each child, but the average is 12 sessions.


How are the children’s preferences and needs taken into account in the musical activities?


The children’s preferences and needs are taken into account in the musical activities by:

    • Asking the children and their families about their favorite songs, genres, styles, and artists, as well as their musical skills and interests, before starting the musical activities.
    • Adapting the musical materials and instruments to the children’s abilities, challenges, and objectives, as well as to their sensory and cognitive preferences.
    • Providing the children with choices and options during the musical activities, such as selecting the song, the instrument, or the activity.
    • Encouraging the children to express their opinions, feelings, and suggestions about the musical activities, as well as to create their own musical sounds, gestures, or expressions.

How were the musical activities structured and organized?


The musical activities were structured and organized according to the following steps:

    • Greeting: a warm and friendly welcome that established rapport and trust between the researcher and the children.
    • Warming up: a brief and dynamic activity that prepared the children for the musical session, such as breathing, stretching, or vocalizing.
    • Main activity: a longer and more complex activity that focused on a specific musical skill or objective, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, or lyrics.
    • Closing: a calm and relaxing activity that concluded the musical session, such as listening, reflecting, or thanking.


What were the techniques and strategies used in the musical activities?


The techniques and strategies used in the musical activities were:

    • Imitation: copying or repeating a musical sound, gesture, or expression.
    • Repetition: doing or saying the same musical sound, gesture, or expression several times.
    • Variation: changing or modifying a musical sound, gesture, or expression in some way.
    • Improvisation: creating or inventing a musical sound, gesture, or expression spontaneously.
    • Composition: making or producing a musical sound, gesture, or expression deliberately.


What were the musical materials and instruments used in the study?


The musical materials and instruments used in the study were:

    • Recorded music: songs from different genres, styles, and cultures that were relevant and appealing to the children’s preferences and needs.
    • Live music: musical performances by the researcher or other musicians that were interactive and engaging for the children.
    • Musical games: activities that involved playing, singing, listening, or moving to music in a fun and playful way.
    • Musical instruments: acoustic or electronic instruments that were easy to use, manipulate, and explore, such as percussion, keyboard, guitar, ukulele, harmonica, and recorder.


What is the difference between music therapy, music education, and music stimulation?


Music therapy is a clinical and evidence-based practice that uses music and its elements to achieve individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music education is a formal and structured process that aims to develop musical skills and knowledge, such as singing, playing instruments, reading music, and composing. Music stimulation is an informal and flexible approach that uses music and its elements to stimulate the senses, emotions, and cognition.



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