I began researching the benefits of music and movement for my own daughter whose physical condition had deteriorated after spending nearly twelve years unable to do much of anything because of her debilitating seizure disorder.

When she unexpectedly gained better seizure control, I wanted to help her build up her atrophied muscles and what better way to do that than through music and movement activities!

In my research, I discovered that music, movement, and creative self-expression can greatly enrich the lives of children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities in more ways than one!

Combining music with movement doesn't just get the body moving!

It engages several areas of the brain and benefits people with disabilities in other great ways as well.

A recent study indicates that participating in musical experiences can have a favorable impact on speech and communication skills and in the social, emotional, behavioral, and motor development of children on the autism spectrum as well as children with other developmental disabilities (Srinivasan and Bhat, p.5, 15).

Participating in musical and movement programs with others could be a small step in the right direction for improving the social, emotional, and physical well-being of children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Music and movement activities offer participants the opportunity to practice speech and communication skills, make eye contact with others, and socialize.

But perhaps most importantly they foster the development of real and meaningful friendships as participants begin to recognize and look forward to seeing each other on a regular basis!

Rhythm Instruments activities which includes clapping, marching, and walking to music, promote muscle and motor coordination and assists in the development of gross and fine motor skills. Synchronous movements during our rhythm activities may also help participants to feel a sense of belonging to the group (Srinivasan and Bhat, p. 9, 12).

A study conducted by Phyllis Weikert suggests that the ability to keep a beat is also linked to language development and encourages cross lateral movement which in turn causes the brain to cross the mid-section, a skill necessary for learning to read and write (Harman).

Musical Scarf dance routines promote creative movement and healthy self-expression, boost self-esteem and self-confidence, promote emotional understanding, and encourage cross lateral movement as well.

Bean bag activities promote gross motor movement and muscle strengthening.

Opportunities for practicing social skills, social interaction, and turn taking are also presented. Again as an added bonus they also encourage the brain to cross the mid-section by implementing cross lateral movements.

A few of the possible positive effects of participating in any music and movement program could be:

• An increased attention span
• A decrease in self stimulatory behaviors
• Improved cognitive functioning
• An increase in socialization
• An improved behavior and mood
• An increase in self-expression
• Improved auditory processing
• An improvement in fine and gross motor ability
• A boost in self-esteem and self-confidence
• An improvement in language and communication skills
• A decrease in anxiety
• An improvement in muscle strength
• Improved academic functioning (American Music Therapy Association)
• Increased eye contact

I am not a physician, nor am I a licensed therapist. I make no claims that participating in any music and movement program will cure participants of any disability, illness, or obesity.

Work Cited:

Harman M.A., Maryann;   Music and Movement- Instrumental in Language Development

Srinivasan, SM and Bhat, AN; pp.5, 9, 12, 15   A Review of Music and Movement Therapies for Children with Autism: Embodied Intervention for Multi-system Development

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