One of the musical interventions I have seen in my first couple of weeks at Therabeat is improvisation. Improvisation is defined as, “the art of creating music spontaneously on the basis of nondirective activity.” This can be done in many different ways including drumming, singing, playing piano, or any other instrument we use in music therapy. This can be especially helpful in achieving goals with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Sara Knapik-Szweda conducted a study to determine the effectiveness and influence of vocal and instrumental improvisation on children diagnosed with autism. She discussed the reciprocal interaction between the therapist and patient and how meaningful that is to the musical improvisation. Improvisation provides a safe environment within the musical structure for the patient to be creative. The main goal of her study was to determine the influence of improvisation on communication, social development, and reduction of repetitive behaviors. She found that nonverbal communication, social skills and cognitive goals including joint attention, concentration, memorizing and imitating were all improved in the patients who participated in improvisational music therapy sessions.
Many of our patients here at Therabeat have Autism, so this is a great way we can help them achieve their goals. Incorporating improvisation into their sessions will allow them to foster creativity as well as get closer to their communication, social, and cognitive goals.
Source: Knapik-Szweda, Sara. (2015). The Effectiveness and Influence of Vocal and Instrumental Improvisation in Music Therapy on Children Diagnosed with Autism. Journal of Education Culture and Society (1), 153-166.
-Lauren Booke, Music Therapy Intern