Music Therapy, Sensory Integration, and the Autistic Child

By Dorita S. Berger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Elements of Music for Sensory
Adaptation

The most important tools at the music therapist's disposal in addressing issues of sensory needs in autistic populations are the six basic elements of music. These are: rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, timbre, and form; and there are variations within each element. Whether used individually or grouped, when these tools are thoughtfully applied towards adaptive goals they are unsurpassed in their ability to address sensory integration issues.


Rhythm

Rhythm is everywhere, and it is one of the first elements human beings instinctively detect when experiencing music. The universe consists of rhythmically paced functions: from pulsing lights and sound frequencies to the orbiting of planets; from the cycles of seasons and weather to phenomenal cosmic forces.

Plants rhythmically adapt to seasonal changes. Animal survival depends upon physiologic rhythms, including rhythmic neuronal firings in the brain, heartbeats, sleep cycles, breath pacing. Food is chewed in rhythm; language involves rhythmical labyrinths of punctuated sounds and silences; walking is a rhythmic fall and rebound; birthing contractions depend on rhythm; general daily conduct evolves in rhythmic patterns.

The drum is one of the oldest instruments devised by human beings, and is found in every culture in the world. Even certain species of birds use twigs to beat rhythms on hollow branches. Rhythm is a physiologic

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