Guest Post: How Music Can Be Therapeutic To Kids With Special Needs

Music Therapy Advocacy month has arrived! As part of this community this weeks post is written by guest blogger Naomi Esterely.  Naomi Esterly is a stay-at-home mom to two rambunctious, yet adorable, little boys and a newborn baby girl.  In her spare time she balances writing freelance for 1800Wheelchair.Com and coaching her community’s little league.

As society has evolved, so have our abilities and know-how when it comes to special-needs children. Years ago, children with special needs were completely misunderstood and almost completely seen as a burden and shame. Medically, these children were hurt more than helped in many cases.

Today things are much different. Families no longer live in shame while trying to hide or discard their special child. Doctors have found much more effective ways of understanding and treating these little ones. We have learned so much, while continuing to learn more every day.

One such emerging discovery in treatment has shown great promise – music. This non-drug-related option has only recently come to light as a tenable option, worth some facilitation. How is music helpful to a child with special needs?

We are still learning about this, but we do know a few other things on the subject. Music is said to be the “soother of the savage beast.” In other words, music is a universal language of sorts. No matter your race, sex, mood, inhibitions, or special needs, music can reach out and touch where other things cannot. Even if language is not understood, research has long documented the effects of music on the listener. We can understand a song to be mellow, up-beat, or even progressive without us understanding words, or words even being present.

This concept is indisputably universal. Apply this concept to special needs children, and you get the same results. Today, there are emerging music therapy providers who’s clientele ranges from, young, old, troubled, special, and even those without issue. This is what we are starting to see.

How this concept works is also becoming more clear as we see it applied, and observe the effects. Again, this fares no surprise for many. A child with special needs such as ADD, ADHD, or anxiety disorders can find comfort and a slow-down effect through calmer, mellow, yet happy ballads.

Other special needs conditions such as emotional disturbances or those that would cause reclusiveness and shutdown may need a different approach. We are finding these often helped by exposing the child to carefully selected, happy, positive music. Each situation or condition can call for a different type of music. Volume levels and listening frequency can also be factors needing consideration.

Again, not surprisingly, many children can be “felt-out” for how they respond to different types of music. Whether treating in home or in a professional setting, it is often productive to play different types of music first. From here, further judgement can be made as to favorable responses. If the child is highly cognitive despite their special need, identifying the “right” and “wrong” selections may also be considerably affected by the child’s moods.

In addition, many of these therapies involve the child actually playing music and making sounds. Musical instruments are provided and the child is able to play with any they choose. This is showing marked effectiveness as well.

The concept of therapy through music is very simple and not a matter of deep surprise to many. Special-needs children are just like any other person. We are all fairly similar at the primitive level; we all want love, company, and life-comforts. How could music, the uni-lingual force of expression through sound be any different? This is what we know so far. Stay tuned, the future is bright.

One Comment


Hi just read this one and agree absolutely. In the little homeschool in which I work with a 7 year old, I sing my way through the day according to activity using the old familiars and altering words on the way again depending on activity. The child I work with (on the spectrum) loves it and will indicate if I am not singing according to mood or if he does not want to hear it. A firm shake of the head says it all. Moyra


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