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Autism in Teens: Music Can Help Social Communication

The number of children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum has grown rapidly in the last ten years. Now, researchers are seeing a rise in autism in teens as those children grow up. Communication with normal teens can be difficult on its own, but autistic teens can be even more difficult to communicate with. Although not all autistic teens are non-verbal, many do not know how to express themselves.

There’s a Link Between Music and Communication

A recent study performed by researchers at McGill University has discovered a link between music and communication for teens with autism. Music has shown to improve quality of life, increase brain connectivity and social skills with autistic teens. There have been many cases of autism in teens where music was their only form of communication. Autistic teens see patterns in ways that others do not. Music always has a pattern that many of them can understand.

autism in teens

The study selected teens on the autism spectrum and enrolled them in a music-based intervention program. Simultaneously, parents completed lengthy questionnaires about their teens baseline and teens got MRI’s to establish their brain patterns before the intervention. To determine if music really has a major impact, the participants were separated into two groups. One group experienced musical intervention and the other did not.

The Results of the Study

The reports were astounding. Parents in the music group noticed improvements in communication skills and quality of life for the family. MRI scans performed after the music groups found an increased connectivity between motor skills and auditory skills, which are generally seen as over-connected in teens with autism.

Teen’s who experience auditory over stimulation tend to lash out or “stem” to calm themselves. Due to constant noises and visual stimuli, autism can cause teens to not pay attention to what is being said because they are unable to ignore the irrelevant noise around them. The research team plans to expand the study to develop tools to help autistic teens communicate more with a therapist or their parent.

To learn more about the autism spectrum disorder, click here.