We all know the power of music. We listen to music to cheer us. We listen to music to calm us. Music can bring back memories. We sing and play music to express ideas and strong emotions. But as a therapeutic treatment modality for individuals with autism, it can be much more. Music and music therapy are well documented to have wide appeal as a therapeutic tool for individuals of all ages and abilities. But research is increasingly making some pretty bold and exciting claims when it comes to autism.
How might music therapy benefit individuals with ASD?
- By encouraging social interactions
- By improving communication
- By reducing anxiety
- By improving body awareness and coordination
- By promoting increased vocalization and verbalization
- By helping emotional regulation
But it’s important to note that music therapy is different than just playing or listening to music. A music therapist works with individuals to set unique, measurable goals and they are highly trained. A Certified Music Therapist must earn a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from an American Music Therapy Association university approved program and log 1200 clinical hours!
So, now that you’re excited to explore the possibility, you want to know how to find a Music Therapist. There’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that some simple searches online will turn up lists and that the number of music therapists is growing. Two recommended databases are the Certification Board for Music Therapists and Music Therapy Association of North Carolina. In some cases, school districts have music therapists on staff or contract and can incorporate it in a student’s IEP.
The bad news is that while the body of research is growing, music therapy is still not recognized as a legitimate form of therapy in some circles. For that reason, most insurance doesn’t cover it. Medicaid has only very limited coverage with special waivers. And most school districts don’t want to pay for the assessments necessary to provide it in their schools.
This could change, however, as music therapy research continues and provides more measurable results. And you contact your state representatives in both North and South Carolina (https://whoismyrepresentative.com/) where bills have been introduced that would require a process for licensure, which would give music therapy the legitimacy it needs to make coverage by insurance more likely. A sample letter can be found on Piedmont Music Therapy’s website (piedmontmusictherapy.com) (https://www.piedmontmusictherapy.com/) .
The possibilities are exciting. While the obstacles to accessing music therapy might be great, the potential may be greater.