Can Learning To Play A Musical Instrument Help My Disabled Child?
Growing-up is hard. There are many things to learn every day, and finding ways to interact, socialize, and achieve excellence is something that everyone experiences. However, for children with disabilities, performing those tasks are even more of a challenge. In addition to the standard learning processes, they must discover ways to overcome their disadvantages and capitalize on their unique strengths and capabilities.
As a parent, you can help them. Certain music therapy sessions and learning to play a musical instrument both offer avenues that enhance your child’s natural talents. Over the last few decades, targeted research, performed by experts in the field of cognitive processes, has confirmed the fact that music has an incredible propensity to positively interact with brain functions. And the results are simply amazing.
Children naturally enjoy listening to music and performing hands-on activities. Learning to play a musical instrument offers both stimulations. Moreover, tonal sounds and melodies break-down language barriers and can increase heart-beat, pulse rates, and touch responses, allowing children with specific disabilities to engage in positive forms of interaction. Disabilities that are positively affected by music include:
- Cognitive disabilities
- Speech and language impairments
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorders and learning disabilities
- Emotional and behavioral disorders
- Orthopedics and physical impairments
No matter the challenge your child faces, music instruction and therapy offers new avenues to explore, providing new ways to unlock his or her innate potential.
Techniques and How They Work
Depending on the type and severity of the disability, there are music instructional techniques that can help children at any age level.
Because music is so much more than simple counseling—music appeals to something elemental in every person’s nature—children with speech difficulties and language barriers can benefit from participating in creative activities that allow any vocal sound to become part of an improvised symphony. Plus, music helps reduce stress by allowing children the freedom to express themselves through an instrument.
In much the same way, musical instruction can heighten cognitive development. Although there was much controversy concerning the “Mozart Effect,” recent studies conducted by teams of experts have shown that music instruction at an early age actually increases grey matter development (Schlaug et al 2005). Music organizes sounds and silences into an ordered, logical flow of time, and helps children with cognitive impairments remember sequences and create categorical structures through clapping and other tonal sounds.
In addition to the mental benefits, learning to play a musical instrument like the violin can help improve physical impairments. The strength, dexterity, and concentration required to play an instrument improves motor skills and gives children a confidence in their own abilities.
Those who suffer from ADD and ADHD develop concentration skills and are able to focus their energies and thoughts on working within a group. Each instrument has a part to play at an exact moment. The techniques that are used incorporate more than one neural pathway, and children learn sequence, order and consistency through music instruction.
Children who suffer from emotional and behavioral disorders benefit from the emotional empowerment that playing a musical instrument provides. He or she doesn’t need to verbalize internal feelings or thoughts; music can be used to express ideas that can be difficult, or impossible, for some children to communicate.
There are numerous music therapists and educational instructors who can help your child reach his or her full potential through music instruction. And although every case is unique, adaptable and creative techniques are the key to finding the right solution for your specific needs. Both of these organizations can offer more expansive information and can help get you started so that you can find a program or teacher in your area:
The American Music Therapy Association
Dreams Fulfilled Through Music
Playing a musical instrument has the ability to offer incredible benefits, especially for children and adults with disabilities. You child will blossom into new territories by learning such a wonderful skill.
Schlaug G, Norton A, Overy K and Winner E. 2005. Effects of music training on the child’s brain and cognitive development. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1060: 219-230.