Autism, music therapy improves communication skills

Autism, music therapy improves communication skills

Tomorrow, Wednesday 15 November, is the European day of music therapy, dedicated to raising awareness of the potential of this type of approach in the treatment of different types of disorders, including autism spectrum disorders. Among the various Italian centers active in this field is the Antoniano Therapeutic Center in Bologna, home of the Zecchino d’Oro, whose next edition, broadcast on Rai Uno from 1 to 3 December, will be entitled “Music can”. As if to remember the benefits that music can have if used in therapeutic and rehabilitation contexts.

Autism and music therapy

“Music therapy can be an important resource for children suffering from autism spectrum disorders, it is in fact capable of reducing stress and improving communication, relational and motor skills,” says Marinella Maggiori, president of the Italian Association of Music Therapy Professionals ( AIM) and music therapist at the Antoniano Therapeutic Center in Bologna. For over 40 years the center has offered rehabilitation treatments for children with developmental disorders, and in 2022 alone the center organized music therapy courses for a total of over 1700 hours. The courses consist of both individual meetings and group sessions, during which different types of musical instruments are made available to the children: from the piano, to the recorder, to percussion instruments, such as sticks, cymbals, tambourines.

Acoustic spectrum disorders, diagnoses increase

In recent years, Antoniano professionals have detected an increase in requests for access for children suffering from autism spectrum disorders: in 2020 there was a 30% increase compared to previous years. “Diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder are on the increase,” explains Alessandro Ghezzo, child neuropsychiatrist at the Antoniano Therapeutic Center: “This is partly due to greater awareness and earlier and more effective diagnoses.” In Italy, continues the expert, according to the latest available data (updated to 2019), 1 child in 77 among those in the 7-9 age group has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

And among the therapies aimed at improving the autonomy and also the quality of life of these children and their families, continues Ghezzo, music therapy is showing excellent results: “Recent research indicates that music therapy can contribute to improving the brain connectivity of the areas of the brain that support communication skills, overall decreasing the severity of the clinical picture and improving the quality of life”.

Music therapy, what science says

In fact, there are several studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of music therapy not only in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders, but also, more generally, those that concern communication skills, specific learning disorders or attention disorders. A review published in 2021 on Frontiers in Psychiatry had analyzed the results of 39 previous studies, which had included a total of over 1700 participants suffering from one or more of these disorders. The analyzes showed that the different music therapy approaches – from the more structured “formulas” to those in which children are faced with the possibility of improvising with their voice or instruments – were found to be effective in almost all the studies examined. . With the “improvisation” mode which seems to give excellent results especially in children affected simultaneously by autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities.

It is important to continue doing research

According to Ghezzo, if the data available at the moment are certainly encouraging, it is still necessary to continue doing research in this area: “We at the Antoniano Therapeutic Center – he concludes -, thanks to the work we do every day with these children, can be a observatory to monitor the results that can be obtained with music therapy”.

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