What is Autism?
According to the National Autistic Society, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a "lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world".
Autism is called a 'spectrum disorder', because there is a variety of symptoms people can experience at different severities. Around 1 in 100 people are on the spectrum.
What does Autism look like?
From the outside, it's impossible to guess whether or not someone has Autism. However, if we take a look at their brain, as some psychologists have managed to do, we can see that they look a little different.
Some studies (1) have shown that some parts of the brain can bigger or smaller than average in people with Autism. These parts of the brain are really important in controlling our memory, our emotions and how we move and interact with people. Other studies show that the connections in the brains of people with Autism aren't as strong, which can affect the way they behave. Psychologists think that these differences in the brains of people with Autism are one of the things that causes it.
What's this got to do with music?
Studies have shown that music intervention is a really effective way to improve some of the symptoms people with Autism experience.
One group of psychologists (2) found that 8-12 weeks of individual music intervention improved social communication skills and brain connectivity in children with Autism, when compared to no intervention. They also found that the focus of the music intervention group improved significantly.
Another pair of psychologists (3) looked at lots of different studies and interventions and found that music can improve social, behavioural and neurological (brain) deficits in children with Autism, and called for more research to be done in order to create more effective ways to treat Autism symptoms with music.
Based on these, and many other, studies, we can see that music intervention can improve symptoms of Autism, which can be helpful not only in the classroom, but in everyday life.
Music is for everyone
Music isn't just a fun skill to learn, but it can improve lots of different things in ways we can't always see. If you want to learn more about Autism, and how music can help, see the links below.
National Institute of Metal Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd
National Autistic Society: https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism
1) Brain Structure and Changes in Autism: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/brain-structure-changes-in-autism-explained/
2) Music improves social communication and auditory-motor connectivity in children with Autism, Sharda et. al (2018): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6199253/
3) A review of "music and movement" therapies for children with autism: embodied intervetions for multi-system development, Srinivasan & Bhat (2013): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23576962/