Music Matters: Using Music Therapy to Help Children



Popular amongst psychological professionals for decades, music therapy is a respected treatment for children with learning disabilities, physical, emotional or behavioral disorders and atypical neurology. With music therapy, kids have been shown to heal faster, overcome anxiety and improve socially.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act, music therapy has proven so valuable for assisting children with disabilities that it is an official special educations service that can be provided by the school if it is determined that a child may benefit from it.


Below are 6 different ways music therapy can help children, and how it works.


1. Music Therapy Can Help Kids with Autism—

Autistic children can sometimes have trouble communicating, making eye contact, and socializing. Music has been shown to pull autistic kids out of their private worlds, allowing them to better connect as they bond over music.

Music therapy can help kids who with communication hurdles by allowing kids to engage with others, especially when allowed to play musical instruments themselves.

By making socializing fun, music takes the anxiety out of interpersonal interaction for many children.


2. Music Therapy Can Help Kids with ADHD—

Music is naturally calming, no matter what the style, as long as the listener finds it pleasant.

Kids with ADHD often experience anxiety because memory issues and being unfocused/easily distracted can lead to learning and behavioral problems. Music therapy can be a great way to calm anxious or frustrated children.

Multiple studies have found that music therapy also improves motor skills and attention in kids with ADHD, which can help them fit in socially and perform better intellectually.


3. Music Therapy Can Help Kids with Mental Processing—

Music playing in the background while kids work on math problems and language arts has been proven to allow children to more efficiently process information, with classical being the most beneficial genre.

Music can also improve memory by giving students something melodic and memorable to mentally link to what is being taught for better retention and recall.


4. Music Therapy Can Help Kids Physically Heal—

For a sick child, the hospital can be a sterile, cold and scary place. Fear raises anxiety and stress levels, which has been proven to be extremely detrimental to the healing process.

When compared to anti-anxiety medications in studies, music therapy proved more successful for calming hospitalized children by distracting them from unpleasant procedures and their intimidating environment.

In a recent study, children receiving music therapy during bone marrow transplants actually produced white blood cells faster than kids who didn’t receive music therapy. (Source: University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.)


5. Music Therapy Can Help Kids Express Emotions—

Children with emotional disorders and/or kids who have been traumatized at an early age can have trouble expressing their feelings because what they’re trying to process is so overwhelming.

Without the life perspective of an adult, children often don’t know how to adequately put into words what is bothering them, even when talk therapy would be highly beneficial.

Music can help kids identify with a feeling, rather than a verbal definition, giving them an outlet to express emotions that doesn’t force them to put their problems into words. This process can be extremely cathartic by allowing kids to work emotional issues out of their systems via music.


6. Music Therapy Can Help Kids Feel Good About Themselves—

Being allowed to bang on a drum or play an instrument can be empowering for a child, fostering creativity and raising self-esteem by making them feel accomplished at a new skill.

When allowed to play instruments with a group of children, kids who might normally be shy or insecure may feel accepted and more confident, helping them to assimilate smoothly with peers and make friends faster.


The benefits of music therapy are evident, and the profoundly positive effect it has on kids has been widely studied and documented. Music therapy continues to grow in popularity both in health care and psychology, validating it as a useful treatment and creative way to help children thrive.