In the previous episode, we talked about the use of music in children’s schools to achieve the greatest educational, social and intellectual goals. It helps develop the individual’s sensory perception, activates the mind, and contributes to the treatment of shyness and introversion because of its ability to give an opportunity for self-expression. In this episode, we continue talking about the role of music in treating many problems in children.
Role of music therapy in improving memory
Scientists are trying to understand why musicians are able to retain musical memory even if they lose memory in general, and they believe that the reason may be that musical memory is stored in a special and separate part of the brain. When British maestro Clive Wearing got an infection in the brain that left him unable to remember anything beyond ten seconds and his condition was diagnosed as one of the most severe cases of amnesia, most of his musical memory remained unchanged at the age of 73. The maestro was still able to read musical notes and play the piano, and he was even able to lead his previous singing choir.
The researchers believe they are now close to understanding how musical memory is retained even after memory loss.
Carsten Finke of the Charité University Hospital in Berlin mentioned that the phenomenon can be used for a gradual, albeit limited, treatment of amnesia by linking specific activities to a musical activity, and that the quality of life of patients who are musicians can be improved by encouraging them to continue playing music.
This method can be used to treat musicians and non-musicians, because they have the same memory systems.
Dr. Claire Ramsden of Neurological Injury Rehabilitation has been studying the phenomenon for three years that musical memory may not be the same as other memory types, because it is based not only on knowledge, but also on action. Different aspects of playing music are linked to different parts of the brain, said Ramsden, adding that people with amnesia may have difficulty playing a composition they are learning for the first time, but they don’t have much difficulty remembering and playing compositions they learned earlier than amnesia.
Clive Wearing’s wife Deborah said in a book she wrote about his condition called “Today Forever” that her husband does not remember anything from his past music except for a composition by Handel he played regularly. She said that music plays the role of reference in his memory, as he remembers their joint musical activities and how music linked them in a strong love affair. His musical memory lifts his spirits, which quickly plummets to rock bottom once the music’s influence is cut off, Deborah noted in her book.
Treating children with disabilities
The use of music with children is based on the assumption that all individuals have an innate response to music, even though some may have physical, mental, sensory, emotional or other disabilities. Studies have shown that children get excited by music and express their emotions by movement, clapping, jumping and humming, which indicates that musical tendency is an authentic human characteristic that can be invested in developing the cognitive, physical and emotional growth aspects of children with disabilities and their development, thus limiting the shortcomings that they experience.
Music is sounds composed in a special way that draws the child’s attention and interest because it evokes in the psyche a sense of order and harmony, makes him expect and imagine what he will hear, and helps him to integrate with others who share in his listening, allowing the child gets excited with everyone.
Music therapy is used in most schools for children, and music therapy helps to develop waiting-in-turn skills, which extends its usefulness to a number of social situations. Music therapy is a useful technique and has positive effects in calming autistic children. Chanting songs, for example, have been shown to be easier to understand than speech for autistic children, and therefore this can be employed and benefited from as a means of communication.
The child vibrates his being with the melody he loves, and the rhythm accompanies his voice and his body movements, which is why music is used to reveal and develop children’s talents. It is also used to treat children with disabilities, as it helps them to reveal and express their pent-up feelings, thoughts, and fears. This is why we direct music to all children and use it to deal with all disabilities, while making appropriate adjustments for deaf and hard of hearing children, such as feeling the vibrations resulting from music and rhythmic dance. Among the many uses of music is its use in reducing the impact of some disorders in children with disabilities, especially children with autism. The use of music can help to develop language skills and the ability to express oneself with others by training them to play different musical instruments, imitation of various oral motor exercises, and continuous repetition of melodious words, simple songs, short chants and others, which can be sung or the children sing it during music therapy sessions.
In addition to the above, the use of music with children with disabilities plays a role in providing them with different knowledge and skills, positive attitudes, and increasing their motivation to participate in various educational activities, which reduces their sense of isolation and increases their sense of safety. It is known that the isolation of children with disabilities is one of the causes of abuse inflicted on them, so reducing isolation may contribute to preventing it and may contribute to encouraging the child to declare his feelings about the abuse he may be exposed to, which helps to discover it.
Since music does not depend primarily on speech, it is a good means of non-verbal communication, and it also makes a great impact in group therapy through group musical activities that make children with disabilities feel their self-worth and their membership in the group. If music with other arts or without other arts is a tool of communication with children in general, then for people with disabilities, and for people with mental disabilities in particular, it is an essential and indispensable tool, because the mental disability may not help the child to use normal language.
Arousing the child’s emotion and encouraging him to show his talents and express his repressions are the first goal that those who care for children with disabilities should strive for in music and songs directed at these children, taking into account the following:
– The taste or preference for music is a predisposition that exists in all children, but this willingness does not work and does not grow except with an organized approach that we follow in choosing the music presented to them, in raising their interests, preparing them to receive musical sounds, and responding to them emotionally.
– Choosing musical and lyrical compositions that are characterized by vitality, easy rhythm, and a clear melody that appeals to the heart of the child with disabilities.
– Using the simplest techniques and avoiding difficult techniques, and addressing all the possible senses and energies in the child as much as possible, including hearing, imagination, memory and sight, through playing, as well as illustrated musical and lyrical programs, in addition to recordings of the sounds of animals and birds that children love.
– Offering suitable opportunities for musical and singing activities in which children with disabilities participate alongside their ordinary peers in listening and producing music in order to activate the concept of inclusion.
Improving language development in autistic children
Music therapy as a treatment style is originally based on the assumption that all individuals have an innate response to music, despite the physical, mental, emotional or other handicaps that some of them may experience. Therefore, we can resort to music in order to establish a good relationship between the therapist and the client or the child. It is noticeable that the therapist deals primarily with the rhythm of the heartbeat or that melody in the sound, or taking the role in that relationship that arises at the time, which confirms that music or musical tendency is an authentic human characteristic. Given that music is thus considered inherent to our being, it becomes possible by working to liberate the musical constraints of the individual, his resistance to them, and his multiple defenses, and by focusing on the aspects of strength that distinguish those elements, components and musical structures that he has within the framework of an improvisational relationship, Thus, we work automatically in order to improve and develop aspects of his cognitive, physical, nervous and emotional growth, and therefore from the various shortcomings that he suffers from.
Autism is generally characterized by deficiency in social interaction, communication skills, extreme sensitivity to different sensory stimuli such as touch and sound, preoccupation with behaviors, and stereotyped, repetitive and restricted interests. Studies conducted in this regard confirmed that autistic children often respond better. Music therapy is an effective way to improve their visual-motor synergy, improve their communication skills, social skills, language skills, reduce language problems they face, and also improve their attention to various stimuli.
Usually, music and musical activities are used with autistic children in order to achieve the required behavioral expressions, which can help them to achieve adaptation and behavior in a better way in their environment. Due to the lack of communication, especially verbal, on the part of these children, music may actually develop and improve the level of linguistic development, as their vocabulary increases and the number of linguistic structures they come up with increases, regardless of how correct they are, through continuous repetition of melodious words, simple songs, short songs, and other things that these children can sing during the music treatment program sessions, which often contributes significantly to the development and improvement of communication styles on the part of these children.
Music is the only art that can be felt by mentally disabled children, including autistic children, because it contains in itself a firm natural factor similar to an electric current that would affect the nerves regardless of the level of development and the level of intelligence, which makes the mentally disabled accept music more than other activities, in addition to the fact that a child with autism tends to music and is attracted to it. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines music therapy as one of the services associated with special education, which makes the music therapist one of the team members tasked with preparing the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) for the child. From this point of view, music therapy is one of the components included in that plan, which clearly contributes to achieving the educational goals that are defined in it.
It is worth noting that music therapy is used with mentally handicapped children in general and autistic children in particular. Autism, as noted by the National Center for American Studies, is one of the most prevalent types of mental disability. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy as a form of therapy is never a threatening method for the child, as it is characterized by its strong influence on the soul, and it becomes more likely and results in unique outcomes that cannot be achieved with other treatment methods that we can resort to in this framework. Through this method, we can offer the child a variety of musical experiences that are appropriate for him in a deliberate and developmentally appropriate manner that affects his behavior on the one hand and facilitates the development of his various skills on the other, due to the child’s attraction to music. On this basis, the results of many studies conducted in this regard have in fact revealed that music and music therapy techniques have positive and meaningful effects in treating those negative effects that can result from autism, as some see that the immersion of these children in music allows them to identify external stimuli while avoiding direct contact with others.