(ADHD, ID, Autism) Music Therapy and Music Education: What’s the difference?

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Services such as music therapy, educational therapy, and music education have been proven to benefit children with special needs, like Autism and ADHD. You may have heard about it, or even participated in one of these services. But what exactly are the differences between the three?

In this article, we will take a closer look at what they are, how they differ, and most importantly, how they can help your child.

What is Music Therapy?

To begin, the word ‘therapy’ is often associated with treatment of some kind of condition which is clinical and evidence-based. For children with autism or other diagnoses, Music Therapy uses a combination of music and clinical based treatment to accomplish a particular goal. In Singapore, it is seen as an allied health service to improve health, socio-emotional, and overall well-being.

What is Educational Therapy?

Educational Therapy is typically a one-to-one service provided by a professional, who can range from an educator, to a therapist (e.g. speech and language). These services are educational in nature, and provided outside of formal arrangements to supplement and bridge any gaps in skills. 

What then, is Music Education?

Music Education refers to providing and receiving instructions, skills, knowledge and understanding in the subject of Music. The goal of Music Education is to build and improve musical skills with music as a central subject of teaching. Much like learning English or Mathematics in school, Music Education includes the actual learning and operation of a musical instrument as well as reading and writing in music notation.

Music TherapyMusic EducationEducational Therapy
GoalsImprove overall well-being and health. Promotes emotional regulation through communication and self-reflection. Improve general mood by reducing stress, anxiety, muscle tension, managing pain and trauma.Improve and build on musical skills. Increase music literacy.Identify behavioural challenges. Bridge underlying learning and cognitive gaps. Teach problem solving skills.
ActivitiesMusical skills not required. Adapted musical activities (e.g. music and movement, listening, singing, dancing, writing, as well as discussing about lyrics in the music).Musical skills required. Learning how to operate a musical instrument and theoretical concepts in music.Repetition of a particular subject or activity. Communication, behavioural and emotional coping strategies.
SettingsPrivate clinics and hospitals. Rehabilitation and correctional facilities. Community group.Home/Private centers. Enrichment schools.Home/Private centers. Enrichment Schools.

What does The Radiant Spectrum offer?

Music Lessons at The Radiant Spectrum are a combination of Educational Therapy and Music Education. Our educators take time to identify behavioural and learning challenges to bridge any cognitive gaps while also building the child’s musical skills. During the trial assessment and throughout all lessons, your child’s strengths, learning needs and behavioural challenges are constantly identified. Next, strategies and tools are created to ensure these challenges are addressed, and learning can continue. This includes designing suitable tasks and materials, and the use of an instructional style that matches to your child’s needs.

Through our blend of ‘Music Education Therapy‘, as we light-heartedly call it, students with different diagnoses (Autism, ADHD) have learnt to play the piano, understand musical concepts (e.g. rhythm, pitch and dynamics) and read musical scores with us. You can learn more about our Radiant Children and their read their success stories here!

What are some of the benefits of learning music at TRS?

It is our philosophy at TRS to help students learn music and piano in a way that he/she understands, instead of trying to force a one-size-fits-all method. As a result, our students are able to digest the information effectively and learn a new skill while improving focus, stamina and memory. Other short term benefits include improved fine motor skills, self-confidence, self-esteem, communication and emotional regulation.

In the long term, learning music can contribute greatly to an increase in your child’s quality of life. Being able to play the piano provides a lifelong leisure activity that students can use to enrich their daily lives. It also provides possible employment avenues that would not have existed – whether it’s performing, streaming, instructing, analysing or writing music, the opportunities available today are endless.

Because of our approach, many children who embark on their musical journey with us have experienced ‘small wins’ early on and in turn, challenging behaviours stemming from emotional frustration over failures or misunderstanding are greatly reduced.

image of special needs music lessons singapore piano autism spectrum ASD learning development

A Closer Look: The Radiant Spectrum, Music Education and Autism

As mentioned above, the goal of Music Education is to build and improve musical skills. Children with autism go through Music Education with similar behavioural, cognitive and communication challenges as other subjects they may come across with. However, Music Education at TRS does not focus on reducing or eliminating challenging behaviours such as flooring, stimming and vocalisation. Take a peek into one of our lessons to see how a student is guided through her stimming episodes.

At TRS, we believe that all children with autism can be educated if we teach in a way that they understand. Through the use of creative visual supports and strategies, we overcome challenging behaviours to build positive relationships and make Music Education meaningful, functional, successful and enjoyable.

We hope that this article helps clarify the similarities and differences between therapy services and music education in relation to Autism and other conditions; as well as what we do here at TRS. We are proud to be part of each and every one of our students’ Music Education journeys and we believe that through Music Education at TRS, we can continue to celebrate abilities and successes of our children with special needs in future decades to come!

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