How can Music Therapy Help Someone with Autism? Clinical example:
Eitan has a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has complex needs. His main difficulties are to develop relationships and to communicate with others around him. In the first year of his Music Therapy Eitan had his hands entangled inside his shirt and wouldn't use them. He couldn't bring himself to play even though he seemed excited around the instruments. Instead Eitan was pointing out to the keyboard or the guitar when he wanted to hear me play them. Sometimes he also vocalised back to me and this was a way to keep our musical relationship alive. In the second year of therapy Eitan began to use his hands to play gently on some of the string instruments like the harp or the guitar. His sounds are timely with mine and he enjoys taking turns with me. In this video clip Eitan is dancing to the rhythm of my guitar music and when I leave him room to complete my phrases he is ready to strum my guitar.
Music Therapy provides a safe space to explore one's social skills
I find it useful to remember the role of the harp in the biblical story about David and Saul. King Saul was very troubled having lost his kingdom and the spirit of God. His mind was haunted and he could not be helped. David found a unmediated way to build a bond and trust with king Saul through his skillful play of the harp. In therapy I find that the sounds of the harp are so powerful in processing feelings. In this video Eitan discovers the harp for the first time and he seems intrigued by the sounds of it. His short melodic phrases are followed by important silences. I use the keyboard to provide a context to his musical 'thoughts'. As though reflecting together our sounds become merged at times to the point I'm finding it difficult to tell who is playing at a given moment. Coming together in music helps me to understand Eitan better and he feels the experience of sharing and empathy as a result.