At Happy Oak we love seeing our kids take up learning a musical instrument because there are so many benefits, especially before the age of seven. So what do the children gain from playing an instrument aside from the joy of music itself?
- Improvement in academic skills
- social opportunities in orchestras and bands (during school and beyond)
- increases patience and discipline
- playing is a great de-stressor and eases anxiety
- strengthens physical skills and co-ordination
- the corpus callosum (part of the brain) is actually larger and more developed in musicians who play piano (this may help social skills)
- boosts self-esteem.
Competence and being good at something is a key building block for healthy self esteem. Self esteem equates to happiness. This is one of our our main goals for our children isn’t it? The good news is that many people with autism are gifted musically and so this plays to their strengths (as well as helping their maths and second language skills for the tiger mums out there!)
Check out this recent article newspaper article on some new research which has looked at the effects of learning music in childhood on auditory and visual skills and why learning an instrument is great for children in general.
And remember, if instrument practise is becoming a little tricky with your little one, apply the principles of applied behaviour analysis. Is it too hard? Maybe you need to make what is being learnt easier to achieve success? Do you need to break the piece or skills down further? Do you need to increase the reinforcement? Do you need to reinforce sitting at the piano or standing still? Encourage asking for a break (to replace a meltdown). For older and more independent children we can teach them good practice skills such as a check list of scales, playing the harder bits more than the whole piece. How to be organised before a lesson and how to prepare for exams if they take them.
Even if our kids don’t end up the next Amadeus Mozart (who was most probably on the spectrum) I think you will agree taking up an instrument in childhood is well worth it!