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Drum Therapy and Autism

Drum Therapy and Autism

With the growing rate of autism, parent frantically seek out some therapies to aid them in the struggle to learn survival and coping skills to help to minimise some of the issues that face those on the autism spectrum. Drumming has been shown to be an effective therapy that can work on the well being of the child as well as parents and care givers.

Because of the spectrum of autism no two affected people are the same so drumming may be one of the better methods to reach those with an ASD as it has been recognised as a method to reach the minds of those with different levels of communication skills and abilities. As the repetitive nature of the drumming circle can appeal to those on the spectrum that use repetition as a means to communicate and the rhythm can be a soothing way for them to connect with others.

When I recently took my fifteen-year-old son with Asperger’s to his weekly therapy session, I was thrilled when he was offered the chance to participate in drum therapy. Instantly, I recalled the days when he was a toddler throwing a spectacular meltdown, beating himself with his fists until I set a drum in front of him and he pounded it instead. A broad smile came across his face as his frenetic energy transformed from self destructive behavior to music. 

drum therapy 

Drumming also provides a functional activity that supports language skills such as categorization, sequencing, predicting, turn taking, listening, problemsolving and following directions. The complexity and “call and response” action of drumming mimics and encourages human speech. The structure and repetition of drumming appeals to individuals on the autism spectrum and gives them an outlet for their emotions and a means to channel their energy.

Read more about this experience here

 Drumming can help reach autistic children on a fun and familiar level, it can help them function in a group environment, teach them about communication and cooperation. It can also help them to express emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, happiness through the striking of the djembe. It can connect the mind and the body. Read more about the benefits of drumming on the body, communication and the mind here.

Watch a Fox news short clip here on music for autistic children to see drum therapy in action.

Mr Jim Donovan M.Ed shares his thoughts on how we can improve the quality of life for people with autism through rhythm:

The reason rhythm is such a powerful tool for treating these conditions is that it permeates the entire brain. The human response to rhythm has been studied for centuries and, according to Dolle, rhythm is documented to have a far more influential effect upon us than previously believed (Dolle, 2006). Michael Winkleman of Arizona State University notes that, “drumming synchronizes the frontal and lower areas of the brain, integrating nonverbal information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex, producing feelings of insight, understanding, integration, certainty, conviction, and truth, which surpass ordinary understandings and tend to persist long after the experience, often providing foundational insights for religious and cultural traditions” (Winkleman, 2000).

Drumming therapy can aid in increased attention to task, non-verbal expression,socialization and stress reduction for individuals on the Autism spectrum and other disabilities. Through the conscious use of tempo, instrument choice and timbre, you can help people with ASD to release excess energy and become more calm- naturally. 

Drumming therapy has been shown to significantly improve their attention to task in children with Autism and increase their overall level of engagement with caregivers. Research so far has demonstrated average increases in attention to task of 189% in as little as 12 weeks.

While most people know the benefits of music on children and how it aids their overall development and mental well being there is currently scientific research being presented in the US that shows conclusively how music aids brain development. "Experiencing music at an early age can contribute to better brain development, optimizing the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating the existing brain tracts," Dr. Dies-Suarez said. After the children in the study completed nine months of musical instruction using Boomwhackers -- percussion tubes cut to the exact length to create pitches in a diatonic scale, DTI results showed an increase in FA and axon fiber length in different areas of the brain, most notably in the minor forceps. Read more evidence here


Source: Jim Donovan M.Ed Leadership, is an award winning musician, educator and inspirational trainer whose mission is to empower and connect people.

Autism Key - US Based community support agency

SCIENCE DAILYTaking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children and may be useful in treating autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a new study.


To Book a School Incursion or get more information on what InRhythm can achieve, click HERE.

To become a Drum Therapy Facilitator, look at our available Facilitator Courses, click HERE.



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