Music has been used for centuries as a holistic therapy. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and is being used as an alternative treatment for many conditions, including cancer, dementia, and autism.
Music therapy has been shown to help children with autism in many ways, including calming behaviors, improving communication skills, fostering confidence and self-reliance, and increasing perception of others. Music can naturally encourage positive responses from children with autism, and can be used to block out stress producing sounds and other types of stimuli.
Because of variability in level of function and need in each person with autism, music therapists make individual treatment plans specific to each child, based on their individual strengths and needs. Music therapists are highly skilled, having received at least a Bachelor's Degree in Music Therapy from a college or university accredited by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), and have to have completed 1,200 clinical hours of specialized training. Additionally music therapists must take and pass a national certification exam. Once all coursework, training hours and certification exam requirements are met, they become credentialed as Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC).
Music therapists can be found in private practices, working in some mental health centers or in centers offering services to those with disabilities. They can also sometimes be found working with schools, either on site, or contracted to provide services to those in need. In a world where many people are turning to holistic medicine to treat their conditions, music therapy can be seen as a valid and helpful tool to treat autism.
Katagiri, J. "The effect of background music and song texts on the emotional understanding of children with autism." Journal of Music Therapy, 2009 spring; 46 (1): 15-31.
Rudy, Lisa Jo. "Music Therapy for Autism." Autism Spectrum Disorders. Jan 30, 2012. http: www.autism.about.com/od/autismtherapy101/a/musictherapy.htm.
Tan, Claire P. "Music Alters Autism Therapy." The Crimson Harvard, October 11, 2011. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/10/11/autism-speaks-and-sings/