Music therapy success in redirection of fight-or-flight behaviors in children with ASD

Sent to me from my friends at the Fondazione Mariani in Italy, this small article update caught my eye specifically because of my recent experiences with children with ASD and music. My lower post (My pilot in music and autism: thoughts on empathy, mirroring and rapport) goes into some detail about my experience, but suffice it to say here that I’ve only found time and time again that music proves to be a brilliant ice-breaker and way to put kids at ease, especially when they suffer from some type of social anxiety. Taken from the Journal of Biomusical Engineering,  the following illustrates some recent findings in the world of music and ASD:

Journal of Biomusical Engineering Vol. 2 (2012)
Pilot study investigating the efficacy of tempo-specific rhythm interventions in music-based treatment addressing hyper-arousal, anxiety, system pacing, and redirection of fight-or-flight fear behaviors in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Berger DS
The Music Therapy Clinic, Norwalk, CT 06850, USA

Many behaviors in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) resemble fight-or-flight avoidance responses resulting from habitual states of fear, possibly induced by sensory processing issues, causing on-going stress and deregulation of systemic pacing. This study hypothesized that patterned, tempo-based, rhythm interventions, at 60-beats per minute (pbm), can regulate and induce systemic pacing, reduce repetitive anxiety behaviors and enable focus and calm in persons with ASD. Eight-week pilot study investigated the influence of four sensorimotor rhythm interventions for habituation (entrainment) of systemic inner rhythms, pacing, stress, anxiety, and repetitive behavior reduction, ultimately yielding eye-contact, attention, motor planning, and memory. Six subjects (n = 6) ages 8–12, with ASD and minimal expressive language, were treated in 45-minute weekly one-on-one music therapy session, over eight weeks. A rating scale tracked responses and progress in vivo per session, and on video-tape. Lifeshirt heart-monitor vest with embedded wireless sensors, worn by each subject during the first, fifth and eight sessions, tracked heart-rate data. Results support the hypothesis that highly structured rhythmic interventions at a slow tempo can yield levels of systemic pacing, motor planning, visual contact, attention, reduction of anxiety and repetitive behaviors, and functional adaptation.

And for my Italian friends:

I bambini affetti da disordini dello spettro autistico (ASD) mostrano comportamenti di evitamento, causati da uno stress cronico determinato dalla cattiva regolazione del ritmo interiore. Questo studio ipotizza che un intervento di musicoterapia basato su strutture ritmiche a 60 battiti per minuto possa regolare il ritmo interiore del bambino, diminuendo i comportamenti ansiosi e facilitando la concentrazione. È stato effettuato uno studio pilota di 8 settimane per indagare l’influenza di 4 diversi tipi di intervento ritmico per il miglioramento del contatto visivo, dell’attenzione e della memoria. Sei bambini di età compresa tra gli 8 e i 12 anni, affetti da ASD e con scarso linguaggio espressivo, sono stati trattati con sessioni individuali di musicoterapia per 45 minuti alla settimana, per 8 settimane consecutive. I progressi sono stati riportati su una scala e i comportamenti sono stati videoregistrati per una successiva analisi. Il battito cardiaco è stato monitorato nelle sessioni 1, 5 e 8 attraverso una maglietta dotata di sensori wireless. I risultati supportano la tesi che un intervento di musicoterapia prolungata con un tempo lento possa ridurre l’ansia e i comportamenti ripetitivi e migliorare il contatto visivo, la programmazione motoria e l’attenzione.

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7 thoughts on “Music therapy success in redirection of fight-or-flight behaviors in children with ASD

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