Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD ) is a wide spectrum and one that can come in a whole range of severities. However, one thing that many people with ASD have is some form of anxiety, and that can be tough to deal with.
Research has shown that music is able to help mental health quite substantially, and if you are already a music lover, then you may have benefitted from some of its effects. Here’s a little more information on how music can help those with ASD cope with anxiety.
Music and anxiety
When you listen to music or even create it, the amount of cortisol in your body is reduced. What this does is lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels—creating a more relaxed environment, and a calmer self. Whether your anxiety is generally triggered or caused by sensory overload, this effect can do wonders for your mental state. If you are creating the music, it can also leave you with a sense of pride and self-worth, because you have worked hard to create something yourself and are able to see the results.
Music and children with ASD
Music and its associated therapy works wonders across the entirety of the autism spectrum. However, you will find that some of the clearest and most promising results are in those who are non-verbal. There are a number of studies that have shown those who are non-verbal have been able to use music as a way to interact and express emotions that they would not have been able to before.
Even the simplest instruments are able to open a whole new range of emotions for them. Brain scans show that the areas of the brain where language is stored look the same in those communicating with words as it does with music. This shows that it really is a different form of socialization— and one that everyone can understand.
Music and adults with ASD
Just like with children, adults with ASD who are non-verbal have found a new way to communicate with those around them through the medium of music. It is a new way to talk to each other, but also offers a great release when it comes to self-expression. As an adult, it can still be difficult and frustrating to cope with ASD, and that is why music is such an amazing tool. It engages the mind, and if you decide to go to group sessions, it can open up new social channels.
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Music also consists of a series of rhythms and beats that all have a specific structure. The ASD mind quite enjoys routine and order, so having something that is so clearly set out and that has a particular order can be a great way to bring calm and order to a day that was perhaps quite stressful. It can also improve concentration and motivation levels in the workplace, as well as help you to cope with anxiety. Having a combination of music and structure can bring an incredible amount of calm to a situation.
Music can be a lifeline
Music is a form of communication and a language that we all speak without even realizing. For those with ASD, it can be a lifeline and something that can help you to become a happier and more expressive person. If you found this article interesting and you would like to learn more, you can read our detailed guide on the power of music, and music therapy, with mental health.
This article was featured in Issue 86 – Working Toward a Healthy Life with ASD