Music Therapy for Children with Autism

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Music Therapy for Children with Autism


HOUSTON – Some people say that “music is the heart of our soul” while other people say that music has saved their lives. In one case, music is used as a therapeutic tool for children with autism and other behavioral issues.

“Music therapy uses music in a variety of different ways. Most of the goals are non-musical based. And it is assessment-driven,” says Veronica Butler, administrative director and founder of the Music Therapy Center.

“The kids I work with love music to begin with. And they are able to reinforce the skills we are teaching through music,” says Erin Breen, director/owner of The Viridian Center for Early Intervention.

“We use music as a tool to address whatever functional goals that they’re working on,” says Butler.

Believe it or not, music therapy has been around for more than 60 years; in fact, it was used in the 1960s to help Vietnam War veterans deal with post-traumatic stress. Since then, music therapy has branched out; and with good reason.

“Music is a whole-brain process,” says Butler.

“If part of the brain is damaged, since music is processed on both sides of the brain … we can create new pathways around the damaged areas of the brain to address their functional goals,” says Kate Harrison, program director/co-founder of  the Music Therapy Center. That may be hard to believe for some, but the results definitely speak for themselves.

“It’s amazing the breakthroughs you can have,” says Butler. “Two or three year olds who really… their mobility isn’t where it should be. And their gait or standing position, they’re a little wobbly. And they haven’t really taken their first steps.”

But the motivation is there, because you have the music; you have the instrument. And all of a sudden, they’re taking those first steps.

But, it’s not just motor functions some of these kids are getting out of this experience. The Music Therapy Center is also using music to teach social skills.

“In a group setting, the music therapist will have the kiddos sitting in a group. And we’ll work on group dynamics, social skills, communication; all the turn-taking,” says Harrison.

“Waiting is one of the major things we work on; waiting and turn-taking, because a lot of these kids don’t understand that concept. So, it’s a good way to teach them that; that they have to sit and wait their turn,” says Breen.

Admittedly, music therapy does not work for all children with autism, which is why the Music Therapy Center does an assessment to see what needs to be worked on.

If music therapy is not what a child needs, “It may not work for them at this point in time, but might have to be revisited at another time,” says Butler. “We can maybe give them a home-plan for the families to do music at home.”

The Music Therapy Center is a Non-Profit 501-C3 Center. The funding comes from grants, donations, private insurance on a case-by-case basis and fundraisers. Such as the Third Annual Dance for Autism which is the brain-child of speech therapist Rochelle Villegas.

“It’s April 14th. It’s out at the Melody Club this year,” says Butler. We have some of the best dancers in all of Houston coming out. They’re dancing all genres of dance.”

“Then everyone gets to get up and dance at the end of the evening too.”

And all the proceeds benefit families with autism, so they can get music therapy services. So, if there is a family out there who needs help with an autistic family member, but is afraid of what this kind of service will cost, do not worry. There’s always hope.

“Depending on where they fit in, we do have a sliding fee scale that’s based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines,” says Harrison. “They would have to fill out our intake paperwork.”

“If they would like to apply for financial assistance, they need to submit a copy of their 1040 tax return to verify the fees and the discounts.”

A lot of families come in and they do not know what to do. In a couple of months they are just so happy with the progress. And they’re just relieved that there’s hope.

On the Web:
Music Therapy Center of Houston —

Read more:

Music Therapy for Children with Autism | The Autism News.


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