Friday, July 18, 2008

Teaching Children With Autism Better Verbal Communication Skills

Author: Rachel Evans
Children with autism commonly face problems with verbal communication. This is usually due to the frequent speech and language problems associated with the disorder. Though the actual reason that these problems are faced by autistic children is unknown, many experts believe that they are the result of several conditions occurring before, during, or after the child's birth that have had an impact on the development of the brain. The inability to properly communicate verbally can make interpretation and interaction with the child's world much more difficult.

The communication problems experienced vary from child to child, depending on the individual's social and intellectual development. While some may not be able to speak at all, others may maintain extensive vocabularies and can express themselves regarding complex topics. However, most children with autism experience some form of communication difficulty usually with the appropriate use of the language, for example difficulty with intonation, rhythm, and word and sentence meaning.

Autistic children who are able to speak may say things without true information, expression, or content. They are only words with no meaning to the situation. Others will use echolalia, where they simply repeat what they have heard, even if they have been asked a question. And yet other autistic children will use delayed echolalia, using the question previously posed in order to ask for what they want. For example, a child who had earlier been asked "are you hungry?" may say "are you hungry" at a later time to express his or her hunger.

Many autistic children will have a stock of phrases that they use in specific conditions. For example, a child may introduce him or herself at the beginning of every conversation. Some autistic children learn scripts from television shows, commercials, books, or other recorded dialogues.

Autistic children able to speak can frequently speak extensively about a topic without the ability to actually converse with others. They may also make up a voice to use other than their own such as a robot voice, a deep voice, a squeaky voice or another similar type of alteration.

It is possible to help an autistic child to better his or her verbal communication skills with improvements made through the use of appropriate treatments.

The first step is to consult a speech and language pathologist in order to have your child's communication skills evaluated. Specific treatments suitable for your child may be recommended during this evaluation.

No single method of communication treatment has been universally found to improve all autistic children, but starting early increases the chances of significant improvements. Try to target your child's specific communication strengths and weaknesses. Different forms of goal orientated therapy for useful communications are the most successful techniques, though not guaranteed to work for all children. Periodic in-depth evaluations from a specialist are recommended for perfecting and altering the therapy to best work for your child's unique needs.

Many parents find that consulting physical and occupational therapists can also be very helpful for helping to reduce unwanted behaviors during communication, which are common hindrances to the development of skills.

Find out what your child best responds to: a structured behavior modification program, an in-home therapy program, or another type of therapy that utilizes reality-based situations as a foundation for the therapy.

It may surprise you to discover that music therapy and sensory integration therapies may have a large impact on your child's ability to use verbal communication. This is because stimulation of the senses often helps to improve the child's ability to respond to sensory information, and therefore helps him or her recognize what he or she is hearing through verbal communication and seeing through non-verbal communication. The goal is to help improve the effectiveness of sensory understanding.

Medications may also improve an autistic child's attention span, which in turn can help to improve verbal communication in your child. However, with long-term medication use there is the possibility of undesirable side effects.

To be certain that your child is at his or her fullest potential, mineral and vitamin supplements, as well as a tailored diet, psychotherapy, and overcoming sleep challenges may greatly assist in focus and attention, which should help improve verbal communication.

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Music and Sound Healing

Author: Daniel Kobialka
Music and sound healing is not a new concept. Cultures throughout the world have used music to empower, energize, heal and soothe the body, mind and spirit since time immemorial. It is no accident that Apollo, the Greek god who is credited as being the father of medicine, is also the father of music and the inventor of the lyre.

Music and healing are part of each other, and current research is pointing to that more and more. Recent studies have shown that music can slow down and help balance brain waves, reduce tension and stress by affecting endorphin levels, reduce physical tension by changing the vibrational frequency of cells, and even evoke feelings of love and inner peace.

Of course, if music can slow down your body's rhythms and effect soothing, peace and healing, it can also have the opposite effect. A well-chosen set of music can help energize you and prepare you to work hard and be creative. Studies have also shown that athletes working out and practicing to music use more energy, stretch themselves further and burn more calories than those who work without music.

There's a great deal of information available now about music and healing. Sound healing, music therapy, and the power of sound to effect changes in the mind, body and spirit are becoming more and more accepted. It's sometimes difficult to tell how much is true and how much is marketing hype.

I became interested in the healing power of music as a by-product of trying to produce the most beautiful music possible. Years back, Leonard Bernstein invited me to perform as concertmaster in the world premiere his production of Mass. While there, he invited me along to speak with management and producers in the recording industry.

I learned from them, to my surprise, that the violin, the instrument that I consider the most beautiful and evocative of any, was not considered by the recording industry to be a marketable sound - that people would not buy recordings that featured the violin.

That piece of news amazed me. To me, the violin is the most beautiful, evocative and versatile instrument ever created. In the hands of a skilled musician, the violin can gloat, laugh, exult or cry. It can express nearly any emotion that humans can feel in their hearts and souls. I challenged myself then to produce works of music that presented the violin as I know it - the evocative and expressive voice of the soul.

That was the beginning of my own music label and catalog, Li-Sem Enterprises. As it grew, I began to hear from those who work in the fields of healing, both the traditional hospitals and doctors' offices, and those working in CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), telling me that they were using my music in their practices, to enhance meditation, focus awareness and evoke emotions.

Perhaps the most potent, powerful story that I heard was that of a teenage boy diagnosed with schizophrenia who did not speak at all, but who, while listening to my CD Fragrance of a Dream, looked up and said, "This music is so beautiful it breaks your heart."

Those stories and touches from others led me to begin exploring the world of healing with sound and music, and what I find both amazes me and confirms my own belief that music is one of the most potent healing tools the world has ever possessed. I am still very much a student, a pilgrim on a quest to learn all that I can about the ways that different tones, vibrations and sounds can affect the body and attune with the emotions and the spiritual.

It is a wonderful journey, and one that I intend to share with as many people as I can. As a beginning of that sharing, here are some things that I have learned, and that I believe about how music helps to heal and regenerate the body.

1. Your body will heal itself if you give it the right tools. I believe that some music can help your body to heal by helping it to realign its balance. At the same time, it is far too early in the research for anyone to tell you which musical selections will heal a specific medical condition. I would be irresponsible if I recommended that music replace other more traditional forms of healing and therapy. Music is a complementary way to give your body the tools that it needs to help itself heal.

2. One of the most important and effective things that you can do for your body is to help it relax into a meditative state. There is a great deal of research to support that a state of meditative calm inspires your body and your mind to renew itself.

3. Sound is one of the best tools for inspiring the meditative state in which your body is receptive to healing and renewal - but it is important to choose your music carefully. Some music - classical music in particular - seems to go there instinctively, but most music was not designed to relax you.

We are barely beginning to understand the ways that music affects us and effects healing in us. The research is exciting and ongoing, and I spend a great deal of time working with different bodies of healers in various fields to aid this research in all the ways that I can.

I incorporate what I have learned into the production of the titles and arrangements chosen for every new Li-Sem Catalog release in the hopes that this wonderful gift that I was given, the gift of making music, can become a gift to others - one that helps heal and refresh and renew, and in the process becomes part of a positive change in the world.

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World-renowned violinist Daniel Kobialka embraces both the classic and the avant-garde in his search to create sounds that enliven and heal. Dr. Bernie Siegel states, "I found years ago that music creates a healing environment… I find Kobialka’s to be the best available." Visit Kobialka's website for more articles and healing music.

Music on the Operating Room

"We trust that the magic of sound, scientifically applied, will contribute in ever greater measure to the relief of human suffering, to a higher development and a richer integration of the human personality, to the harmonious synthesis of all human "notes" of all "group chords and melodies" - until there will be the greater symphony of the One Humanity."
Roberto Assagioli M.D.

Music can be employed as assistance in obtaining physical, emotional and spiritual health. During the first half of the nineties, I investigated the therapeutic consequences of distinct types of music on patients under adequate anaesthesia. This investigation was done in Johannesburg at the Garden City Clinic, over a period of four years (1991-1995), with statistics done at the Witwatersrand university, by dr. Jackie Galpin.

Data available on investigations done to test the therapeutic benefits of music, would fill a library of its own. That was not what was done. The effect of music with a known therapeutic value, was investigated on patients under adequate anaesthesia - testing for reduction in pain levels and a shorter recovery period. It is an accepted dictum in psychology that people in a deep sleep, coma or under anaesthesia can hear (not remember). That the auditory pathways up to the auditory cortex actually remain open and untouched by anaesthesia. That you can talk to people in a coma or undergoing surgery, and that the body would respond to whatever was said. In many hospitals, positive suggestions are given to patients in a coma and on the operating table. The capital aim of the project was to test music to serve as a credible alternative for the positive verbal suggestions.

Music has powerful effects on people, whether they are educated in music or not. Wertheim (1961) states that "muscle perception and performance is an inborn capacity of the human brain. This ability is common among human beings and is independent of education or culture....." This makes the application of music as a therapy, or music as an aid to any other therapy, very simple.

Science, Medicine and Anthropology have completed many years of investigation on the effect of music on the physical body. As early as 1830, articles were published by J. Dogiel, which outlined experiments done to affirm music's dynamic effect on the body. Absolute physiological reactions were established, and amongst other things, it was proved that music act on the circulation of blood, and can cause blood pressure to rise and fall. According to this, these alternations of pressure rely mainly on the influence which auditory stimulation has on the medulla oblongata and the auditory nerve.

During the first half of the previous century, many investigators throughout Europe agreed that music increases metabolism in a very adequate way, and that it changes muscular energy and enhances respiration.

The positive effects of music on physical and psychological health are truly widespread. In an article on music as cause of disease and healing agent, Assagioli (1965) states that "through its influence upon the subconscious, music can have a still more definite and specific healing effect of a psychoanalytic character. If of an appropriate kind, it can help in eliminating repression and resistance and bring into the field of waking consciousness many drives, emotions and complexes which were creating difficulties in the subconscious".

It is known that certain kinds of music have the ability to reduce pain, whether it is physical or emotional. Scarantino (1987) states that "Pythagoras of Samos taught his students that certain musical sequences, chords and melodies produced definite responses in the human organism, and could change behaviour patterns that accelerated healing processes"

In a further discussion Scarantino states "In the 1970's, Bulgarian researchers, under the direction of Dr. Georgi Lazanov, discovered a holistic approach to learning, that allows the body and mind to work in harmony through the linking of music and verbal suggestions.... While listening to largo movements from works of Baroque era composers, with tempos slower than the average heartbeat (sixty beats per minute or slower), the vital signs of test subjects slows down in rhythm with the music, relaxing them physically but leaving their minds alert for the assimilation of information. When the various educational data was presented to the students while the music played in the background, the students experienced significant increases in awareness and retention of information and a whole repertoire of health benefits, including relief from pain and headaches....."

Relief of physical pain and stress was also observed during the investigation at the Garden City Clinic, Johannesburg. A double blind experiment was performed to investigate the effect of four different genres of music on the pain, discomfort and recovery levels of patients undergoing total abdominal hysterectomies and laparotomies, and it was found that patients who received music had lower pain- and stress levels, specifically with the use of Mozart's piano concertos.

Baroque Music (1600-1750) - Music of this period is characterized by neatness and precision. Composers were highly influenced by the strict rules of Pythagorean principles and harmony. Their philosophy was that music is the bridge that links all things in the universe.
Well known composers from this era are: Bach, Händel, Vivaldi, Teleman and Corelli.

Classical Music (1750-1825) - During the 18th century a movement called "The Age of Reason" began amongst philosophers such as Voltaire, Locke and Jefferson, who believed that the world could be controlled through reason and science. During this period it was believed that there had to be a reason for everything, and an all-over simplicity was sought that was not known in earlier centuries. The Classical period in music tends to be associated with this movement, and composers perfected the forms of classical music such as the sonata, symphony and concerto. Music from this period tends to be "easier listening" for the musically unsophisticated.
Well known composers from this era are: Mozart and Haydn.

Romantic Music (1825-1900) - Composers from this era wanted to overwhelm their listeners and wanted to "melt their hearts". The main focus was on the melody and the romantic themes tended to be lyrical.
Well known composers from this era are: Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.


Relax by breathing deeply while you sit in an upright position with closed eyes. Listen to the music of any of the above-mentioned composers, especially the slow movements of concertos from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras. Remain in this meditative-position for as long as desired.

The combination of breath- and music therapy provides a powerful tool in establishing the physical and emotional health of the individual.

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Nymph completed her L.T.C.L. in music and drama, and obtained a B.A. Psychology and Philosophy a few years later. She trained as formal singer under various renowned vocal advisers and performed in numerous concerts, recitals, and oratorios. After a car accident that lead to a few neuro surgeries, she began investigating the benefits of deep relaxation and wrote a few books and numerous articles on the subject.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Future of music therapy

Author: Olivia Andrews
Music therapy is applied by a qualified practitioner whereby music is used in a systematic manner to achieve therapeutic goals or purposes. These purposes or goals may include self awareness, social development, cognitive development and spiritual enhancement. Therefore, music therapy helps in the fulfillment of physical, psychological, communicative and social needs of the individuals. The future of music therapy is quite promising because the level of effectiveness gained in the therapeutic use of music is high.
Music therapy helps a lot in the growth of people of all backgrounds and abilities. It is very useful as a treatment to children with special needs and promotes progress in communication, physical, cognitive, daily and social life. In a hospital, music therapy is used to improve motor and neurological functioning or to relax patients, reduce pain and promote rehabilitation. Music therapy in a psychiatric facility is used by patients to identify and resolve conflicts, improve their self esteem, explore and express their emotions, practice how to solve problems, making or coping important decisions, improving inter personal skills, increased motivation and decreased inappropriate behavior. It helps geriatric clients to improve physical functions, improved social skills, and physical functions in areas like memory, reality awareness etc.
Music therapy utilizes music as a therapeutic stimulus to achieve non-musical goals. Some of the long terms goals of music therapy includes the following:
1. Physical goals such as improving motor functioning skills like coordination, muscle control, coordination of eye and hand, balance, locomotion, laterality and directionality. Increasing general stamina and endurance, improving functioning of sensory organs, decrease sensitivity of the sense organs, relieve in pain by distracting from pain and discomfort, stimulation of natural pain killers, improving autonomic nervous system response, stress reduction, improving identification of body part, improving physical speech skills.
2. Cognitive goals comprise of improved learning abilities such as memory, impulse control, recognize, learning, perception, improved communication, alertness, environmental awareness, integration experiences.
3. Psychological goals includes improved emotional awareness, expressing appropriate behavior, elevated mood, reduction in stress, trauma, fear of illness, enhanced self assessment and environment, improved motivation, increased impulse control, frustration control, improved decision making skills, problem solving skills, supporting a sense of hope, developing personal insight, promoting acceptance, healing and forgiveness, improving self direction and independence, promoting a sense of control over life, sense of accomplishment and promoting spiritual exploration.
4. Social goals fulfill needs such as establishing relationships, increasing social involvement, peer interaction, eye contact, increasing response to verbal and non verbal cues, maintaining and strengthening interpersonal skills and improving group behaviors.

For more information visit our recommended website
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Olivia Andrews, writer of is a freelance journalist and has written many reviews on subjects such as finance, education, health, entertainment, music, apparels and mobile phones.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Benefits Of Music Therapy

Music therapy uses music to promote positive changes in the wellbeing of an individual. These positive changes may be manifested in changes in physical development, social and interpersonal development, emotional or spiritual wellbeing or cognitive abilities.

The therapeutic benefits of music have been known and harnessed since ancient times. However, music therapy in modern times dates back to the World Wars when music was used in hospitals in the rehabilitation and recovery of soldiers who had suffered physical or emotional trauma. The University of Kansas was the first University in the United States to offer a degree program in music therapy in 1944.

Early exponents of music therapy in the 1950's to 1970's included the French cellist Juliet Alvin and Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. The Nordoff-Robbins approach is still used in many countries around the world including the USA, UK, Australia, Germany and South Africa.

So, how does music therapy work?

Music is universal and connects across language barriers. Most people can respond to music in some way regardless of illness or disability.

Music has an inherent ability to generate an emotional response in the listener. It stimulates a relaxation response which can therefore lead to physiological changes in the body. Music is known to reduce stress thereby producing related benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved respiration, reduced heart rate, better cardiac performance and reduced tension in muscles.

Music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain and this stimulation has been shown to help in development of language and speech functions. It promotes socialization and development of communication, self expression and motor skills. Children and adults with autism spectrum disorder have been found to respond very positively to music and many of them display high levels of musical skill.

Music encourages verbal as well as non verbal communication and promotes social interaction and relatedness. It's a valuable outlet for self expression and creativity. It has also been successfully used in pain management by providing a distraction from the painful stimulus as well as a means of relaxation and stress alleviation.

Children with developmental and learning difficulties,children and adults with autism spectrum disorder or special needs as well as the elderly and dementia sufferers have all been shown to benefit from music therapy. Although the benefits of music therapy have been accepted intuitively and based on anecdotal evidence it wasn't till recently that quantitative evidence of its efficacy started to emerge.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine blood samples of a group of male Alzheimer's patients who were treated with music therapy were found to have significantly elevated levels of melatonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine which are chemicals which act on the brain to control mood, depression, aggression and sleep. The benefits of the therapy were still evident even six weeks after cessation of the therapy and in the case of melatonin the effects persisted even longer.

Music therapy is gaining wider acceptance in the general medical community and has certainly stood the test of time. Music therapists can now be found practicing in a variety of institutions dealing with mental health, developmental and early intervention programs, correctional institutions and special education programs to name but a few. Many are having success where traditional treatment methods have failed.

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Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of, a site that provides information and articles for self improvement and personal growth and development.

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