Info from the MDT: Exploring the sensory benefits of music
30 Jul 2020
Music and sound can have a huge effect on how we feel. Listening to dance music might make us happy, heavy-metal might make us angry and the sounds of waves or rainfall may relax us. As well as the more obvious effects of music, it also provides a structured way of presenting sensory information which makes it an excellent aid for people who struggle with sensory processing.
Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. These sensory differences can affect behaviour and can have a profound effect on a person’s life. For some people, using music as a form a sensory input can help. Our multidisciplinary team explains why:
- It is enjoyable: Most people enjoy some form of music, and so using it in a therapeutic way can really help the person to relax and communicate more effectively.
- It benefits a range of sensory conditions: Playing a favorite song or ambient music can help to lessen any distress and redirect behaviors related to autism spectrum conditions, improving sensory integration and encouraging positive behavioral changes. It can help individuals to regulate the brain processes and improve how they organise their thoughts and respond to their environment. Sometimes more upbeat music can be used to engage someone in more of an active task if they are unmotivated or have low energy, or for calming purposes to regulate someone’s mood when they are in a high state of arousal.
- It can be used in conjunction with other sensory activities: Using music in our sensory rooms helps to create a combination of visual and audio input which can help to de-escalate individuals and encourage communication. Memorable music can also be used in conjunction with memorable smells (e.g. mother’s baking) to remind someone of a really good memory in their life. This can be used to regulate a person’s behaviour.
- It can help to build relationships: Music can be used to communicate and engage with people in a way that language can’t. This gives us the ability to improve behaviours and help the person to interact and build relationships.
NOTE: Sensory integration is not a one-size-fits-all model. While music may be a therapeutic tool for some, other people might tend to avoid music depending on their sensory needs. Our MDT works closely with the people we support and their support teams to identify strategies which are tailored to their specific needs.