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How Does Music Therapy Benefit Children with Autism?

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There are many ways in which Music Therapy benefits children with Autism. This video illustrates that music therapy can help with:

  • Improved Communication including:
    • Speech
    • Articulation
    • Sign Language
    • Use of Electronic Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices such as a Yes/No app on an iPad or something more complex like a Dynavox system
  • Social Skill Development such as greetings, turn-taking, joint attention and eye contact.
  • Self-Expression - This can be particularly powerful with a child who is non-verbal. Music Speaks Where Words Fail!
  • Behavioral Skills  – Creating songs and musical stories about appropriate behavior.
  • Social-Emotional Skills– Singing songs that teach a child how to identify feelings and how to cope with “big” emotions.

Other ways that Music Therapy benefits children with Autism include:

  • Motor Skill Development - These can be gross motor movements such as jumping or fine motor movements such as a two or three finger pinch (pincer grasp)
  • Academic Goals - Putting academic information into a song format so that recall is improved.
  • Sensory Regulation - Calming music, the use of rhythm, and instrument play can all help a child feel organized and grounded.

Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist. He has a master's degree in Music Therapy and a bachelor's degree in Psychology, with an emphasis on Child Development. He has been working as a music therapist with children with special needs for more than 16 years. In addition to working one on one with clients, Ryan also leads groups focused on the development of social skills.  His services are available in Southern New Hampshire, Northern Massachussets and Southern Maine.  He lives in the Seacoast region with his wife who is a 1st grade teacher.


  • Samara Ruiz Thursday, 18 June 2015

    Great Work.

  • Ryan Thursday, 18 June 2015

    Thanks Samara!

  • Tony Cutajar. Saturday, 20 June 2015

    Excellent work Ryan. Keep it up and may God bless you always!

  • Ryan Saturday, 20 June 2015

    Thanks Tony! I'll keep it rollin'.

  • VIRGINIA BEAUCHAMP Saturday, 20 June 2015

    Following. Thanks Ryan for opening this discussion.

  • Ryan Saturday, 20 June 2015

    Thanks Virginia! I appreciate you checking out this video and following the thread.

  • Catherine Schmidt Sunday, 28 June 2015

    I am a music specialist at a school for children with autism, and a music therapy student, and have followed your blog for a couple of years now - thank-you! I was particularly interested in how you incorporated a speech generating device for your client to indicate yes/no at the very end of your video blog. Do you have further examples of using AAC, especially any examples of incorporating AAC into group situations? And have you found any particular research useful in this, or are you guided by your clinical experience?

  • Ryan Monday, 29 June 2015

    Hi Catherine, thanks for reaching out! At the beginning of this video there is a similar clip of the Yes/No app.

    This video has a great example of an AAC app such as TouchChat being used to make a request. This comes in at the 4 minute mark. As you can see, it's all about motivating activities whether they are music-based or not.

    I do also have songs that I have written such as one called "All About Me" that incorporates asking questions such as "Where do you live?" and then the client has to navigate to the page on their iPad that has this information.

    My approach is based mostly on my clinical experience combined with consults and co-treats with speech therapists.

    I hope this helps!

  • Catherine Friday, 03 July 2015

    Thank-you! Yes, I am finding speech therapists to be a great resource as well - they really love hearing about and seeing positive responses in music activities, and suggesting ways for me to extend activities.

  • Carol Winstead, MT-BC Friday, 24 July 2015

    Awesome, Ryan! Thank you so much for sharing these glimpses into your work. I have some questions. Is there a forum for questions and answers?

  • Robin M. Saturday, 15 August 2015

    School has just begun in a beautiful city in Kentucky! Working with special needs students of all ages and disabilities has been an enormous part of my life for the past 26 years...and the blessings I've received are without a doubt unmeasurable. I did not know of anyone in particular with special needs so many years ago, as I worked at a vending company in Lexington as a receptionist and accounts payable clerk prior. I had two young children and I desperately wanted to find somewhere else to work in order to readily be available for the next 12+ years.
    I remember having to take an adult basic learning exam at Eastern Kentucky University and I was literally scared to death! Afterall, it had been about ten years since I had been in high school! You see, I didn't have a teaching degree let alone any other kind of degree like everyone else had...I had no special talents when it came to working with special needs kids either. But I soon found out that what I did have was a loving heart full of kindness and compassion...and a promise to them to do everything I could to help them succeed and feel valued every single day.
    I want to do so much more for the non-verbal, autistic high school students. I just can't give up on them when they get extremely upset, therefore increasing the risk of hurting themselves. I've been to trainings and I've asked the professionals, etc. They've had some really good ideas too! But I'm still not satisfied I'm doing my best to help them do their best. I'm excited about watching your videos and making this school year a year of new ideas and opportunities for students with severe autism. Thank you for your compassion and all that you do to help people like me and so many others reach out to students with autism. More blessings to come...

  • Jan Wednesday, 19 August 2015

    Thank you Ryan. Timr to spread the message. I want to go pick up a guitar now.... Learn and teach. Keep up the good work.

  • Jaime Wednesday, 26 August 2015

    I really enjoy watching your work! The typed commentaries were really helpful to understand what you were doing and why. I am a general elementary music teacher. I have 3 self-contained special needs groups that come to me for 45 minutes once per week. I would love to continue developing a "music therapy" type of environment. Do you have resources or suggestions for working with small groups of special needs? I have up to 6 kids at a time.

  • Ankur Deka Tuesday, 06 October 2015

    It is really impressive. I wish I could work with you.

  • Irène Saturday, 11 June 2016

    What wonderful musical moments for children with autism.
    Some artists (16-24 years old) come each week to the music school of Chartres (France) to discover and play the harpsichord in my classroom.
    Most of them don't speak. They are amazing, like the children on your video.
    Your videos help me !
    thank you

  • Ryan Saturday, 11 June 2016

    Hi Irene, you are welcome! :)

  • Lindi Mthombeni Saturday, 17 December 2016


    I just came across your video while searching for helpful information for a friend who has a 24yrs old son with autism. Do you have anything you can je him with to help empower him. He's feeling overwhelmed and doesn't know what more to do to calm him down. I'm in Johannesburg South Africa and am not sure if we have individuals qualified as you to help with relevant music to help?

  • Ryan Saturday, 17 December 2016

    Hi Lindi, it's hard to give advice when each individual is so unique. If he responds well to music I would definitely suggest making a relaxation playlist for him that he can have on a phone or ipod so he can listen to it with headphones when he is feeling overwhelmed. You would have to assess the type of music that he finds relaxing. It might be soft and slow or it could be more upbeat. It just all depends on personal preference. Good luck!

  • ThinkTherapy Monday, 10 April 2017

    Music is a magic key to open the heart and soothe the mind...
    Music Speaks???
    I imagine a time 10s of thousands of years ago when the neighboring campsite was making Music, that's the site I would be at!!!

  • Ryan Tuesday, 11 April 2017

    Me too! :)

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