We almost instinctively associate music with our mood. It can make us feel motivated, somber, energized, reflective, uplifted and so much more. The beats and rhythms are fun to hear, but they cause us to react. Our favorite songs can make us dance without us even noticing or trigger deeply emotional memories. Scientific research shows that certain tones and frequencies can increase our mental alertness, help improve our sleep and ease pain.
For people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDDs), music can be used as a personalized form of therapy. Where traditional therapy can present challenges if verbal communication isn’t possible, music therapy can build connections and facilitate personal expression without speech.
What does music therapy look like for people with disabilities?
It’s common to think music therapy means you sit and listen to calming music. Maybe you even breathe slowly. While that may be practiced in some sessions, music therapy can take many forms, especially for people with disabilities. Music can be combined with education, communication, physical therapy or behavioral therapy. Some examples of music therapy used as an asset for other types of therapy are:
- Speech Therapy – Singing songs that help isolate difficult sounds in a fun way.
- Physical Therapy – Playing the drums or piano to improve hand-eye coordination and strength, or playing recorders to improve breath control and lung health.
- Life Skills – Incorporating phone numbers, addresses, names, daily schedules and more into songs so they are easier to remember.
- Behavior – Using musical stories to teach appropriate actions and reactions.
Social-Emotional – Learning to identify and self-regulate emotions and feelings.
Does music therapy work for less creative people?
First, there are no “less creative” people; everyone is simply creative in different ways and finds some things easier. So … Yes!
While music and art are often thought of as “right brained” activities for “highly creative” people, that is actually a myth. Physiologically, the human brain processes musical elements in a number of areas on both the left and right sides of the brain.
Because music can be used in so many forms either passively (simply listening to music in a comfortable, familiar setting) or actively (playing instruments and creating new music), anyone can benefit from music therapy.