Sound… you heard it, from before the time of your birth. As early as the second trimester of human development, children can hear the sounds of their mother’s heartbeat, digestive system, and voice vibrations. Even the sounds outside the womb entered into an unborn child’s ears – human laughter, dogs barking, traffic, conversations, etc.
Music’s Effect On The Human Brain
Music – regardless of what form it is in – is a mechanism that helps to organize our thoughts and movements. There is no doubt that music has the ability to impact the human body. After all, we respond to a beat by tapping to the rhythm, more than we respond to a flashing light or image. Music also has a calming effect on the body by helping it to relieve stress and anxiety.
When music is played, it produces a complex neuro-feedback loop between both the motor and auditory cortexes. Playing a musical instrument requires three motor control functions:
– Spatial organization of movement
Music can spark the synapses, increasing the brain’s dopamine levels. It is this neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation, working memory and attention regulation. It has been shown that ADHD brains have low levels of dopamine. However,
listening to music increases dopamine levels, and can help ADHD patients to better function in society.
Music Can Have a Soothing Effect On ADHD Children
In 1985, half a million children were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Today, that number has increased to between five and seven million children. Some of this dramatic increase could be contributed to much improved methods of psychological assessments for ADHD, yet there are clearly other factors in play. While heredity still considered the most influential cause of ADHD, multiple research studies have found that parental use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco as well as exposure to toxic substances (such as lead) is directly linked to this disorder in children.
Parents of ADHD children mainly rely on medication prescribed by a physician, combined with traditional psychotherapy (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) performed by a child psychologist or psychotherapist.
Another therapy widely being used today as a part of a multi-modal ADHD treatment is music therapy. This is not an entirely new approach: Native Americans used a primitive form of music therapy to heal patients. Modern music therapy was developed by psychologists at the University of Michigan in the mid-1940s. Initially, it was
used to treat war veterans suffering from psychological issues such as PTSD. Only in late 50s, music therapy was applied on ADHD patients and has shown great results.
Why did it work?
The reasoning was simple: Music has structure, and ADHD patients’ minds need this structure to go through the daily activities of life. Music gives them the much-needed organization to help them strategize, forestall and respond to the things around them.
Thus, many child psychologists today are recommending music therapy to complement psychotherapy. Music influences mood and reduces impulsiveness and the symptoms of restlessness. Music also alleviates anxiety and stress in the body, and children with ADHD often feel anxiety and stress.
What Kind Of Music Is Best For Music Therapy
Music therapy can be done by either listening to or creating music; composing or writing song lyrics and music or just playing along with pre-recorded music. Still, children do not need any musical talent to actually benefit from this form of therapy. It is a wonderful way for children to express how they are feeling, and it can be tailored to each child’s specific needs.
You might be wondering what kind of music is best to use in this type of therapy. It really does not matter what music is used, although classical music is thought to be more relaxing and calming to the human body. Some of the known benefits of listening to classical music include:
– Test scores improvement
– Decreased amount of time necessary for learning
– Vast improvement in the ability of both brain hemispheres to work in conjunction with each other
– Improvement in clarity of thinking
– Restful sleep
As more and more ADHD-diagnosed children are treated with music therapy, it is becoming more mainstream. With so many worthwhile benefits, more child psychologists opt to use this type of therapy in conjunction with psychotherapy and medication in the treatment of their ADHD patients.
About the Author:
Dr. Tali Shenfield holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto and is licensed as a Child Psychologist by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Dr. Shenfield is accredited by the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology and is a member of the Canadian Psychological Association. She is a Clinical Director of Richmond Hill Psychology Center specializing in psychological assessments and psychotherapy.
Tell us in a few words what you like about KidsGoals.com and what motivated you to contribute this article: I was referred to kidsgoals.com by parents of one of my patients. I like the quality of content and organization of your site. Yet, the mental health part seems to be a bit thin, so I decided to contribute an article related to ADHD in children. I also write on cyber bullying, eating disorders, anger issues, autism/asperger’s, etc. You can see the list of my articles at my Google + profile