By Rick McVicar
Music can help people with autism communicate and interpret emotions, according to several sources.
For instance, Amalia Allan, in “Understanding and Teaching Students with Autism in Music Education Settings,” writes that “some children with autism are gifted in music.”
Allan adds that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a higher than average chance of having absolute pitch, the ability to identify a sound’s note without a reference point. While some people with autism have exceptional musical abilities, others are not so fortunate.
People with autism typically have difficulties with socializing, communicating, interpreting emotions and processing sensory information. They often engage in repetitive behavior. Allan’s article was published on July 15, 2021, by the National Association of Music Education’s website.
Allan provides a link to a YouTube video produced by researcher Pamela Heaton. Heaton has conducted studies on tonality and rhythm among people with autism.
Heaton found that those with autism tend to be super sensitive to pitch. Also, “people with autism are very sensitive to emotion in music,” Heaton states in the video.
That finding stands out because people with autism generally cannot interpret emotions in faces or speech. Often times they cannot identify their own emotions, Heaton notes.
The research is leading to the development of music therapies that encourage abilities for social interactions among those with autism.
Ideas for teaching music to people with autism are provided by Lisa Jo Rudy in, “Tips for Teaching Instrumental Music to People with Autism,” published on April 5, 2020 by Very Well Health’s website.
Visual aids, such as flash cards, should be used, along with clapping out rhythms. Teaching should be hands-on learning with movement. Sometimes students with autism associate sounds with colors, which should be taken into account for an individualized approach.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is considered to be a neurological and developmental disorder by the National Institute of Mental Health.