For many people with autism, music is a great outlet. Music therapy in particular has proven to be very successful for children with autism. Through dancing and singing, these children have the opportunity to express themselves in a way they may not be able to verbally. The long-term effects of music therapy range from it being a soothing medium to some children growing into adults who exhibit an incredible musical aptitude. For many of these children, their musical abilities are displayed at a very young age.
Scientific Research Findings
Scientists have done a great deal of research on autism and how those who are diagnosed with it are affected. Autistic individuals usually exhibit a lack of understanding with regard to vocal cues and facial expressions. In social situations, for example, they may not recognize affective cues.
Even though there is still a great deal of research to be done on music therapy and autism, experts do know that there are two major goals in music therapy: improving social skills and behaviors, and improving language and communication. One of the most significant discoveries scientists have made in their studies of music therapy and autism is that although autistic individuals generally have difficulty with speech, vocal expression through music is usually not hindered whatsoever. This indicates that effective communication through music bypasses speech language barriers.
Autism and Rock and Roll
There are many professional musicians who have been diagnosed with autism and have found themselves in very successful music careers. Music allows them to express themselves creatively and become incredibly talented performers.
Craig Nicholls, lead singer of the Australian rock band The Vines, spent much of his life being misunderstood. He frequently exhibited behaviors that were socially unacceptable, even going so far as (according to rumors) trashing the sets of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman when his band were guests on the popular late night television shows. For years his eccentric behavior was attributed to the stress of being in the spotlight. Not too long after, however, Craig was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s, a mild form of autism. Although Craig still struggles with coming to terms with being a musician with autism, he is now able to take longer breaks in his touring and recording schedules, and has made significant lifestyle changes.
During season 10 of American Idol, contestant James Durbin showed off his musical talents with many exceptional performances. He quickly became a fan favorite with his renditions of popular rock and metal songs. Although you wouldn’t know it from just watching one of his performances, James suffers from both Asperger’s syndrome and Tourette’s syndrome. James’s album, “Memories of a Beautiful Disaster,” is a perfect portrayal of the obstacles he has had to overcome in his life to achieve success doing what he loves to do. During his performances, James exhibits the type of raw emotion that fans adore. There’s no doubt that he will go on to even more incredible opportunities in his music career.
All too often, the public looks at autism as being a debilitating disorder. However, the power of music is apparent in so many musicians today. Those who previously had no voice or mode of expression have found an incredible way to make themselves heard in a world full of confusion. Each day, we as a community can do more to educate ourselves on these spectacular individuals and really grow to understand the amazing power of music.
Photo by Lunchbox LP