“Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono
A love of music is one of the most common threads connecting us together; an enjoyment for the same band or genre of music can bond two people and form a valuable relationship. Music is also beloved when cruising down the road, blasted in a room or listened to alone through headphones. As much as individuals and society loves music, it almost has a power over our minds that can help us physically and mentally. Keep reading to learn why music is especially important for children with special needs, students and kids who are sick.
Music Therapy for Children with Special Needs
Music therapy builds up a child’s self-esteem and feeds their spirit. With all the struggles special needs children face, it is incredibly important to support them with this form of therapy. In fact, music therapy can reach children with special needs in ways that other practices cannot, which is one reason music therapists are specifically trained to create success-based activities that address developmental skills.
Here are six ways music therapy is used to help special needs kids as noted by a mother of a special-needs son:
- Speech and communication: Singing custom-written songs to isolate speech sounds and provide a lot of repetition without monotony.
- Fine and gross motor skills: Using traditional and adaptive percussive instruments (like maracas) to address specific fine and gross motor skills.
- Academic: Putting academic information into a song format to improve recall.
- Social skills development: Forming music therapy groups where children practice greetings, taking turns and making eye contact through musical activities.
- Behavioral: Creating songs and musical stories about appropriate behavior.
- Social-emotional: Singing songs that teach a child how to identify feelings and how to cope with “big” emotions.
Music Education for Students
Every few years it seems like funding for arts in schools is increasingly cut with the budget favoring math and science programs. Although math and sciences are important subjects for students to learn and master, music is also crucial for students to achieve a well-rounded education.
Here are 20 reasons from the National Association for Music Education that explain why music education is important and the benefits it provides. Many of these benefits would apply to patients taking advantage of hospital music therapy programs, too.
- Musical training helps develop language and reasoning:Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on minds.
- A mastery of memorization:Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.
- Students learn to improve their work:Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.
- Increased coordination:Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children develop motor skills when playing music.
- A sense of achievement:Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.
- Kids stay engaged in school:An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.
Success in society:Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.
- Emotional development:Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures. They also tend to have higher self-esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.
- Students learn pattern recognition:Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.
- Better SAT scores:Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT; one report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.
- Fine-tuned auditory skills:Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.
- Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity:Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.
- Music can be relaxing:Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.
- Musical instruments can teach discipline:Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They must set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.
- Preparation for the creative economy:Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.
- Development in creative thinking:Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.
- Music can develop spatial intelligence:Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
- Kids can learn teamwork:Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students learn how to work together and build camaraderie.
- Responsible risk-taking:Performing a musical piece can cause the same fear many people experience from public speaking. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.
- Better self-confidence:With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.
Music Therapy for Sick Children
Given all the benefits to music, it’s not surprising that it is also used to:
- Reduce a patient’s pain
- Provide patients with the ability to express themselves without words
- Facilitate relaxation through singing, playing instruments, writing songs or listening to music
The popular and longstanding method of therapy uses the physical, emotional, mental, aesthetic and spiritual facets of music to help people improve their overall health.
As we explained in our Health Benefits of Music Therapy blog post, “Music therapy can help to relieve pain and reduce stress and anxiety for the patient, resulting in physiological changes, including: improved respiration, lower blood pressure, improved cardiac output, reduced heart rate and relaxed muscle tension. This form of therapy has been shown to have a significant effect on a patient’s perceived effectiveness of treatment, including pain reduction, relaxation, respiration rate, and lower levels of anxiety.”
Music therapy also improves the mental challenges of being in a hospital that can include improving stress, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, depression, social withdrawal and much more.
Supporting Music and Music Therapy
Whether you are interested in helping children with special needs, students or kids in the hospital, there are simple yet effective ways to support music and music therapy.
One of the best ways to support children through music and music therapy programs is to get involved by:
- Participate in Therapy Sessions: If your child is involved with a music therapist or music teacher, be there when they are learning. Don’t interfere, but observe so you can try to understand the struggles your child is going through and see their improvements and accomplishments at the same time.
- Buy Songs: Purchasing an iPod and iTunes card for your child is one way to give them uninhibited access to music they can control. They have the chance to buy music that makes them feel a little better and, with their listening device, can play it anytime they like.
- Learn to Play Music: This is a fun, hands-on way to interact and engage with your child as they participate in music therapy. Whether you play an instrument so your child can sing along, or the two of you (or more – get the entire family involved) play instruments together filling a room with sound, playing with your child can connect you both.
- Be Present: This may sound simple enough, but listening to your child’s song, whether it is sung or played on an instrument, can mean so much to them. For children and teens, it can be scary to express themselves creatively, but when they do, they can release emotions and improve mentally. There may not be a lot you can do for them medically, but your time and encouragement can make their time in the hospital a little better.
You can also get involved in music therapy by donating to our foundation so we can continue to support hospitals like the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and bring new programs to other programs nationally and internationally. Visit our donations page today to contribute.
About the Peterson Family Foundation
The Peterson Family Foundation was founded in 2003 to enhance, restore and improve the quality of life for all human beings. Our primary mission is to seek out and support experts and institutions dedicated to enhancing and improving the lives of people dealing with illnesses requiring a stay at a medical institution by bringing music therapy to as many hospitals as possible. Learn more at our website or share your story with us.