ADHD Part Two: ADHD and Music Therapy
This is the second of a three part series about ADHD. Part One is about the basics of ADHD. Today's post will discuss how music therapy can help individuals who have ADHD. Finally, Part Three will list some helpful resources online and here in Utah.
Lately we've been working with several kids who have ADHD here at Aim High Music Therapy. Something interesting that I've heard from some of their parents is that when their child was diagnosed, their doctor would immediately recommend having the child learn to play an instrument. And for good reason! Learning to play an instrument improves attention span, and there's some research which suggests just listening to music can help kids with ADHD improve their focus.
While learning to play an instrument in and of itself has many benefits, music therapy is even more effective. As we've mentioned before, music therapy is different from music education because the focus is on developing those other skills as part of a treatment plan. So a music therapist can use music to help an individual with ADHD practice self-regulation, attention skills, and short term memory.
One example of a way that I might work on attention skills with a client; teaching them how to play the piano. Specifically, we can work on sustained attention (staying on task all the way through playing songs of increasing length), switching attention (paying attention both to reading the sheet music and playing the right notes), and selective attention (paying attention to playing the song and ignoring distractions such as other sounds in the room). I love doing this as an intervention because it's so easy to adapt to the needs of a wide variety of people, from an intellectually gifted twelve-year old to a four year old with Downs' Syndrome.
Another technique which is currently being researched in music therapy is Musical Contour Regulation Facilitation (MCRF). Many individuals with ADHD and other disorders struggle with self regulation (adapting their emotional and energy level to the context: ie being able to sit still in class after running around outside all through recess, or keeping calm after a disappointment). The basic idea of MCRF is to use music to switch back and forth between high and low energy experiences to help individuals practice the skill of self regulation (instead of telling them how to self regulate and then hoping they do it on their own).
Music therapy can also be used to address executive functioning, social skills, and sensory issues that are common for people with ADHD; however, each of those is a separate topic that I plan on covering here so we'll get more into that as we go on.
If you have any questions or comments about this topic or others, please don't hesitate to contact us! We'll be back next week with some ADHD resources. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend and we'll see you again soon!