Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with deficits in communication skills, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. Since people with ASD experience different symptoms, many therapies can help manage these symptoms and help children live more fulfilling lives.
Music promotes feelings of well-being and improves mental health. Playing a musical instrument provides a distraction from daily life and frees the mind while also enabling you to be creative. Music is challenging but, when done right, reaps incredible rewards.
How can playing an instrument benefit children with autism?
Music therapy is an increasingly popular form of alternative and holistic therapy. Research has shown that music therapy improves symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder, such as depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity. Furthermore, music therapy reduces aggression, enhances language development, and increases attention span.
With the coming of Christmas, parents might struggle with finding the right gift for their autistic child. A musical instrument might be a good idea if you want to engage your child with music.
So, without further ado, here are the best musical instruments for children with autism.
Benefits of Music Therapy
Music has a lot of benefits for children with ASD, such as:
- Helps you learn new things: Children with ASD often have difficulty learning new things and understanding what they see on TV, for example. When it comes to music, they might learn better.
- Expressing feelings: When singing a song, children use words to describe their feelings. Music also helps them communicate with others because they listen to music and can easily follow along.
- Makes children with ASD happier: Listening to music makes autistic children feel relaxed and calms them down, thus making them happier.
- Coping with stress: Stress affects us all, but children with ASD are more vulnerable because they can’t control their emotions. Furthermore, listening to soothing music can help children fall asleep, especially if they have insomnia.
- Helps with focus: Listening to music helps children pay attention and concentrate better while playing an instrument. Music also helps unmotivated children get motivated.
Best Musical Instruments
Here are the best instruments you can consider for your autistic child.
Strumming strings helps develop motor control, and since the ukulele has four strings rather than a full-sized guitar with six strings, it doesn’t produce horrible sounds when hitting a wrong note.
The ukulele is a favorite among parents and children. The small size makes it great for children, especially since it’s lightweight and has a narrow neck for easy grasping. The ukulele is also excellent for working on eye-hand coordination and developing fine motor skills—and the best part is it’s not expensive.
This is an ideal instrument for beginners because they have complete control over the instrument and can start playing immediately. The ukulele may develop an interest in guitars later in life.
A recorder is VERY easy to hold and a fantastic way to learn and develop breathing control. They are simple instruments to play, and you can buy them in various styles and colors. Furthermore, children with ASD work on their fine motor skills to create different tones. Overall, it requires minimal effort.
The only problem might be the high-pitched notes. If your child suffers from sensory processing disorder, they might be bothered by the notes. It might be worth a shot since it’s pretty cheap.
Handbells come in various sizes—and prices. You can find a set with eight bells, then upgrade to bigger ones. Bells are usually good for developing fine motor skills by touching the top of the bell and gross motor skills when you pick them up and ring them.
Since the bells are colored, you can translate music into colors for quick learning. As a result, your child can develop visual learning skills.
Another great small and cheap instrument is the xylophone. They come in various sizes, prices, and colors. It helps autistic children with hand-eye coordination and impulse control as they hit the bars to create sounds.
Usually, wooden xylophones produce a lower-pitched sound than the glockenspiel and might be easier to listen to for a sensory-stimulated child.
Trumpets are an excellent instrument for older children on the high end of the spectrum. This instrument has a unique sound and helps children develop breathing control. Be careful: some children might not like the bright and brassy sound, so you should introduce them to the trumpet to see if they spark creativity in your little one. The child learns to develop control and focus by blowing into the trumpet.
Sound Shapes consist of colorful drum heads that are fun—and come in different sizes, shapes, and sounds. The Sound Shapes create music through high-pitched noise when struck. They are easy to use, easily stacked, and lightweight—so they don’t take much room when you’re not using them.
The drums are fun to play around the house and suitable for developing hand-to-eye coordination and impulse control.
The keyboard or piano are two fun instruments your child can learn to have fun with. At first, the number of buttons might be overwhelming, but your child will show you if that’s a problem.
A keyboard is a great instrument you can take out of the box and start playing. If your child struggles with learning, you can apply letter stickers to the keys; in turn, your child will develop fine motor skills and concentration. Furthermore, some children like it when the keys light up.
You can find cheap keyboards, many of which have pre-recorded songs so your child can practice them. Your child can also record their songs while being creative without direct instruction.
Cabassas is a wooden handheld instrument that comes in different sizes. The sound comes from a chain of cylindrical beads wrapped around wood. When shaken, the friction of the beads invokes a sound similar to shakers. The child works on their gross motor skills and strength.
The weight of the cabassas helps ground a child; you can also roll the cabassa on the child’s legs, back, or arms to create different sensations.
With the bongo drums, your child works off excess energy while producing some sounds. If your child loves the bongos, then your little one can start learning to play them along with the music. This way, your child develops hand-eye coordination and motor skills. In addition, your little one develops a sense of movement and rhythm.
Bongos are easy instruments to play, and you don’t need musical knowledge or lessons. Bongos are portable and easy to hold. Your child can play them standing up, sitting down, or in any room. This might encourage them to play more!
Melodica is a popular yet cheaper brother of the piano. It’s a great instrument to practice eye-hand coordination, breathing control, and fine motor skills. A cross between a harmonica and a keyboard, the melodica produces fun sounds your child will love.
Ocean drums are a great sensory item to have at home; plus, it’s very easy to pick up and play. It comes in different sizes and colors, but you can choose a variant that provides visual stimulation.
You can use the ocean drum to help with sensory input, gross motor skills, impulse control, and relaxation. The sounds the drum produces vary from the loud crescendo of the crashing waves to the white noise of the sea foam. As a result, the sounds are both exciting and relaxing.
The violin is hard to learn, but it yields incredible benefits. Your little one might love to learn to play it. You can probably find violin lessons at school where your autistic child will learn how to hold the violin and drag the bow across the strings.
This instrument is perfect for improving coordination, developing gross and fine motor skills, increasing concentration, and dealing with sensory development. You don’t need to worry too much about finger placement, as the instrument has dots stuck in the right place.
If you are looking for fun and exciting instruments, then the tuned percussion tubes are for you. While they are not widely used instruments, they are entertaining and beneficial for both adults and children with autism. Children with autism work on gross motor and self-regulation skills and help children let out their energy.
This instrument is excellent for developing rhythm and control by hitting the tubes. The bright colors of the tubes help the child distinguish between the tubes. It can be played solo or as a group—just let your child’s imagination go wild!
Castanets are cheap instruments that are fun in small size. Made with wood or plastic, the castanets produce music by putting pressure on the two shells. They come in easy colors, and your child can carry them anywhere.
The castanets support motor skills and are a great tool for self-regulation among autistic children. Continue Reading: Art Therapy and Autism.