Music Therapy and Autism

Jun 29, 2009

We've done two radio specials on the uses of Music Therapy in giving language and improved cognition to autistic kids.  They can be heard complete, with a host of other information, at http://www.wosu.org/autism/. Louise Steele, Professor of Music at Ohio University in Athens, is our local music therapy guru. She and her colleague Kamille Geist train music therapists who use music as a "bridge" to areas of a child's brain that may lack stimulus. Kids are encouraged to sing, play, move and make eye contact as the road to speech in unblocked. This is a long and painstaking process.  Movement coordination and dance are also used, addressing the kinesthetic challenges often faced by persons with autism. In a small room loaded with musical instruments, kids are offered keyboards, blocks, sticks, bell and horns and encouraged to make noise. Music is, after all, organized noise. It is through music, the ordering of the noise, that misfiring brain synapses are hopefully corrected. We saw student therapists working hard to maintain eye contact and to develop focus between their younger charges, themselves, the instruments, and the world around them. Painstaking yes, but fascinating, and hopeful, as, quoting Professor Steele, "Under used areas of the brain are stimulated, and the functions controlling language and cognition are strengthened and sometimes re-assigned, through music." In this sound clip we visit a session led by student therapist Sarah Paysak with 10-year old Christian Borckert, and we meet Christian's parents, John and Jana Borckert.  They let us in on the world of raising an autistic child, and the role of music therapy as the work goes on to improve Christian's life. http://www.wosu.org/audio/classical/2009/music_therapy.mp3